Trust in Fellow Man
I was six years old, when Eddie sucker-punched me.
Eddie was my new friend from first grade. Knowing him only a few days, Eddie and I were walking down the sidewalk, when he turned in front of me, and planted his fist as hard as he could in my stomach. The next thing I know I’m bent over, gasping for breath, and Eddie is running down the street to his home. Over 50 years later, I recall that I never played with Eddie again, nor did he ever try to get back together. I am not sure what was going on in his head – was he thinking that he burned that bridge, so why try? I know I did not trust Eddie enough to work it out.
Why should I trust anyone, much less Eddie? Just a year earlier, at age five, I was molested by my own father. I learned in one incident enough to stay away from him. Everything he did or said from that point on was suspect. One would think that I should be burnt out on trusting people: loved ones and friends, as well as strangers. At age six, I could have learned to distance myself from people.
No, I still trusted people. For over 50 years, I have had a sense of the basic goodness of people. True, that my father and Eddie let me down. And certainly over the years I have been disappointed by other people. But even when I was doubled over and gasping for breath, and Eddie was running away…once the shock of the situation went away, I wondered why did Eddie do that? I could accept Eddie’s behavior if I just understood the reasons. I learned to stay away from my father, who never did touch me again. Even at five, I wondered why he had violated the sacred trust between parent and child.
I suppose I could have been suspicious and distrustful of people throughout my life. Maybe I would have hurt less, when my trust was violated. But those hurts lasted just a short period of time, as I tried to understand them, and then forget…
No, stop. That is not the truth. After I wrote the last paragraph, I set this essay aside for over a year. In trust, the hurts did not end quickly, nor I did not forget them easily. Eddie was a fleeting moment. However, I was haunted by my father’s deed every day for fifty years. I no longer believed what I had written.
Nevertheless, throughout my 60 years, I have always known, despite a few random acts of pain, that most people are to be trusted. My strength is in believing in the good faith of people. Yes, every now and then, I am still burned. I don’t mind giving a chance, then a second or even third chance. I am redeemed by discovering the multitudes who are truly decent, loving folks. I still believe in the goodness of people, and their ability to do the right thing.
Eddie, wherever you are, if you want to be my friend, I am still here.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.