I had an awkward moment at the drugstore yesterday. Curious? Well, when I was at the check-out counter there was a man and his little girl behind me in the line. She looked up at her dad after looking at me and said, “Daddy, I’m afraid of that man!” He replied “Why honey?” She looked at me again and said “He is a stranger.”

 

It got me thinking a little about fear. I know we have to teach our children not to talk to strangers and all of that, but gosh have we brought ourselves to a place where fear dominates our lives? Geoff gave a great homily a couple of weeks ago about fear, and he quite rightfully pointed out how it can be the downfall of us. As a people of faith we ought to seek to live in faith and not fear. Now I realize that it is natural enough for us all to be afraid from time to time. But what do we do with that fear? Do we overcome it, or allow it to make decisions for us?

 

My chance encounter with the little girl is a small example. On a broader level our global society is becoming more and more obsessed with fear. Both dictators and democracies seem hell bent on telling us about how threatened we are and the measures we should take to be prepared. Terrorism by nature is designed to put is into a place of fear-based response. I fear (no pun intended) terrorism is working. I just pray that it does not change us into a people afraid to engage and interact, too scared of the other to invite that person in. Bertrand Russell is credited with this line, “Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.” As I ingest the news daily about more suicide bombings, more terror suspects, more homeland security, more border tightening, more “good intelligence,” nuclear test, and on and on, I hope and pray that we do not all retreat into our comfortable place. I hope that we still come out to play. When I was a kid I would stay in the classroom from recess periods and look out at the others when they played. I did that because I was afraid of the terrorists (bullies) who were in the schoolyard. It worries me when we all start reverting to the comfortable place in fear of what might be out there. Shel Silversteen was a great writer and poet. You might recognize more popular works of his like “The Unicorn” recorded by the Irish Rovers and “A Boy Named Sue” made famous by the late great JC. No not that JC, Johnny Cash! In any event he wrote this great little poem as well.

 

The hens they all cackle, the roosters all beg,
But I will not hatch, I will not hatch.
For I hear all the talk of pollution and war
As the people all shout and the airplane roar,
So I’m staying in here where it’s safe and it’s warm,
And I WILL NOT HATCH!

 

We need to take back our freedom. There is so much we would miss if we would not hatch. Let us all then pray about how we should live in the midst of all of the talk and noise. We have to. Love demands it. Fear cannot have the final say.

 

Did I Tell you about how my encounter with the little girl ended? I made a new friend. “Not all strangers are bad people honey,” her daddy said. “Say hello to the man.” She put her trust in a safe place and overcame her fear. When I left she waved goodbye. We need to have faith to move past our fears, lean on our trusting Parent and discern that not all strangers are bad.

 

More about Shel Silverstein at  http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/104