When JJ and I were expecting the last baby, we were to deliver at a hospital downtown Dayton, where JJ had not previously visited. I requested a practice route, in fear I might be a tad busy laboring to give directions when the time came. So we drove to the hospital, up the ramp where I pointed to the parking garage, and back down again, headed to Thai 9. Just a typical date night for pregnant people, yes?
While at the stoplight, a gentlemen knocked on our window and explained he had just been released but no one was available to pick him up from the hospital. He had been treated for internal bleeding and didn’t feel he had the strength to walk the 3 blocks home and asked for a ride.
We, the small town people, did not know what to do. We looked at each other with eyebrows raised and came to a consensus of “Ummm….” Finally, in an effort to ensure safety, JJ asked the guy to show him he had nothing in his pockets and invited him to get in the back seat. JJ pointed out how extremely pregnant I was, and drove him the 3 blocks.
Later, we discussed this course of action. It was my first hitchhiking adventure and JJ’s first, if not ever, than at least with impregnated wife in tow. Did we feel safe? Should we have done it? What could have happened?
I explained that, for the most part, I felt fine with it. First, because we were driving the Pilot, which had withstood a mighty hailstorm, yet wasn’t valuable enough for the insurance company to fix, so we drive it around looking like a golfball. Clearly the dude was not going for a hijacking.
Next, I brought up the fact that the only hitchhiking stories we ever hear about tend to be the ones which go wrong. Hundreds and thousands of people offer rides to strangers every day and it never makes the nightly news. Why? Because it’s not newsworthy. Nothing happened. Two (or more) people rode in the same car and they happened to not know each other prior to the car ride. How does that change people’s lives? It doesn’t. You can’t put an exclamation point on that story.
Fear grabs hold of us when we believe headlines are the only indication of our reality. The news is not a gauge of our normal lives, it’s a reflection of the abnormal things that happen in a given period of time. News is the exception to the rule. No one wrote a press release when your car started this morning. You didn’t update your status when the shower was warm or that you ate a bowl of your favorite cereal.
There’s a real danger in living by the fear established through a highlight reel – not in the dangers it describes, but in the kind of life it will lead us toward. You become addicted to playing out what could happen, and we live in a world with endless possibilities. That internal game can suffocate you if you’re not careful.
There’s a healthy place for fear, as Inside Out described. But don’t let it drive the bus. Don’t believe it’s the only way to see things. You can exercise common sense without making everyone the enemy.