I learned a great lesson about trust in grade school, maybe second grade. Elementary, junior high and senior high schools were all contained in the same building, so all ages rode buses together. The school was open campus, meaning kids could leave school and walk home for lunch. Junior and senior high kids could walk downtown if they so desired. Times have changed!
One of the go-to establishments downtown was the local soda fountain / confectionery, Tiernan’s. To a grade schooler, Tiernan’s was one of those magical places full of color and intrigue. As a farm kid, my downtown experiences were pretty much limited to the essentials, like hardware and grocery stores. Tiernan’s would have to wait until I was in junior high.
Mike, one of the junior high kids that rode the same bus as me, frequented Tiernan’s regularly and graciously offered to buy candy for us younger kids. We would give our nickles, dimes, and quarters to Mike on the bus in the morning; he would buy gumballs, jawbreakers, and rope cherry licorice commensurate to the coinage we provided. On the afternoon bus he distributed the booty. I was in heaven, cherishing the little red and white striped, unmistakable Tiernan’s candy bag. I displayed it proudly on the bus, but hid the bag at home, where I cherished it in private until…
…my parents discovered my off-limits antics – off-limits because I was supposed to be saving my gopher-trapping bounty money for something more substantial, like a bike. I was in trouble because I had traded instant gratification for delayed gratification. Digging deeper into my antics, they helped me realize I had been taken, that I was only getting about half the candy that I should have. Mike’s “finder’s fee” was about 50%. Lesson learned.
I remember coming away from that experience wondering how one, especially a kid, could know who to trust and who is untrustworthy. I’ve been thinking a lot about trust the past several months. And wondering a lot…
I wonder how much of the pervasive division and animosity we are presently experiencing in America is connected to trust (or lack thereof).
We don’t trust science. We don’t trust the media. We don’t trust leaders. Leaders don’t trust each other. We don’t trust them (whoever our them happens to be). I have to wonder if all our distrust leaves us untrustworthy as well, perpetuating the division and animosity. Maybe that’s why it feels like we are spiraling out-of-control.
I also wonder how a general distrust of others affects our faith in God. Biblically, faith and trust are closely linked. Can I truly trust God while showing animosity toward the pinnacle of his creation – another human being? I wonder how we are able to heed Jesus’ mandate to “love God and love neighbor,” while holding deep-seated distrust of others. I wonder what Jesus would have to say to us these days. I wonder how all this makes God feel. In God we trust? I wonder.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him… (Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV)