Are you a risk taker? Think again.
When someone you love is threatened, are you willing to step in? If you’ve found yourself in this role, perhaps you have been surprised at the strength and fierceness that have emanated from you.
I still remember my first adult risk taking on behalf of a friend. I was at a summer picnic when we were living in Montana. An bitter old (hmm, that was 24 years ago, she was probably my age at the time) and heavily intoxicated women I didn’t know well was regaling her court of friends with the news that my good (probably only) friend “Elizabeth” was a complete tramp. Elizabeth worked in the same law firm as the husband of the Storyteller. (It’s hard not to use a more colorful word than storyteller because memories of her dissertation still fry me, but I’m trying to keep a family-friendly website here.)
The Storyteller began to describe in juicy detail how Elizabeth was luring a nice young man (Tom) from the law firm into her web of lustful, evil deceit. She added that there had probably been many others before Tom. The rapt group of listeners moved in closer so as not to miss a word. I was standing there incredulous when suddenly out of nowhere–well, actually my mouth–came the words, “That isn’t true!”
“What?” snapped (slurred) the Storyteller.
“You’re talking about my friend. She’s a good person and she’s in love with Tom, not trapping or tricking him. She’s not here so I guess it’s up to me to point out that you’re gossiping about my good friend and you don’t know what you’re talking about.” The Storyteller’s eyes narrowed. She looked like she wanted to spit on me. But she didn’t. The circle broke up before any of them could hear the hard pounding of my heart.
It was one of the hardest but also easiest things I had ever done. Out of character for me to publicly challenge someone. Maybe when you’ve been away from Minnesota for a couple of years some of the Minnesota nice wears off. The point is, Elizabeth befriended me at a time when I was very lonely. New in town, a husband working lousy shifts, just overall feeling sorry for myself. Until Elizabeth made time for me. She was a few years older than I and had many words of wisdom for a young bride based on mistakes that she herself had made. She was also incredibly smart and fun to be around. I was so happy for her when she and Tom fell in love and started planning their future.
And then the Storyteller tried to make it cheap and dirty. So I took a risk. I spoke. After you do it once, it gets easier. I could elaborate on many times when I’ve taken risks for my friends. Usually verbal in my case, but also at times when I’ve stepped in and taken care of something because a friend couldn’t or wouldn’t do it. Eventually it no longer feels like risk; it just feels right.
Today I find myself on the other end. Nobody is gossiping about me (well probably they are, but what I don’t know won’t hurt me). But there is this little gap in my life where someone could take a small risk on my behalf that would improve this area of my life significantly. And in this case, she happens to be the only one who could do this particular thing. But she isn’t. Honestly I don’t even know if she is aware of what she could do. And if she is, I don’t think she has it in her to do it. At least not today. And while I’m a little saddened by that, I understand. Because it takes time and events that shape us to become a risk taker for others.
If you’re not generally a risk taker, consider being one on behalf of someone else. You can make a world of difference. Yes, a world. And you might just be the only person who can!
PS: Last I heard Elizabeth and Tom were living happily ever after!