My wife, aside from being gorgeous and brilliant and the best part of our marriage (yep, she reads these), is a voracious reader. She reads books, magazines and all manner of writings on the internet. It’s nice actually, because she mostly tells me what she’s read and so I get the benefit of the learning with much less work.
But sometimes, what she tells me really makes me stop and think. Sometimes it requires me to go read the thing myself. This was one of those times. She told me about a blog post that a pastor’s wife had written about fear and facing your fear. (http://www.chattingatthesky.com) She made her point by telling the story of taking her son to the public swimming pool.
I watched my son fly off the low-dive, swim to the ladder, walk fast back to the diving board line and fly off the end of the board again. He doesn’t even think about it.
But that isn’t the case for some. While he made his rounds on the low dive, I noticed a little girl – maybe 8 or 9 – standing at the end of the high dive. She wasn’t jumping.
Instead, she stood there looking around for another way down. She bent her knees like she was preparing, but quickly stood up straight again.
Bend, straighten, repeat.
After a few tries like this, other people began to notice her and it wasn’t long before all eyes were on her. Her dad appeared from the crowd shouting encouragement and waving a thumbs up.
It happens a lot at the pool – some kid gets scared at the top of the high dive and everybody watches from below. Secretly? I kind of love it. I don’t love watching scared kids – I love watching scared kids jump. It never gets old.
Someone started to clap. Soon, everyone was clapping, cheering her on. We could tell she desperately wanted to jump, but I heard her say faintly, “It’s too high.”
She couldn’t do it and slowly climbed backwards down the ladder.
My heart sank for her. But you know what else? My heart sank for me, too. I wanted her to jump. I don’t know this girl personally, but I understand her fear.
Ten minutes later, I saw her climb back up. I nudged John next to me, “Look! There she is again.”
She seemed more determined this time, standing on the edge. She bent her knees same as last time. And again, she straightened back up.
Crouch . . .
Crouch . . !
The crowd began to clap again, this time with more energy. Several people from across the pool started a countdown – 3 . . 2 . . 1 . . and with one slow motion crouch, she flung herself from the end of the board, arms straight above her.
As she fell, we all whooped and hollered, our collective happiness coming from a genuine excitement for her. I know she heard us before she hit the water.
Here’s the thing: kids jump off that board every 30 seconds and nobody cares. They turn flips and touch their toes and they do it 10 times in a row.
But it isn’t until someone hesitates that the crowd gets involved, even a crowd of strangers.
That story touched me. Partly because it took me back in time and I remember the fear – so far up in the air, a terribly long fall into water, questioning if I really knew how to swim well enough, and the awkward shame of climbing back down the ladder. But also because I also remember the exhilaration the first time I actually overcame that paralysis-inducing fear and I jumped. I jumped, and prayed, and screamed underwater, and delighted in the hugs and hollers from family, friends and strangers.
But mostly because it hit me that a “leap of faith” is so real and so often lost in our modern, busy world. There’s a reason that complete strangers become engaged and somehow personally vested in that girl jumping off the high dive. Because we “get it” – and we love to see people overcome fear. It’s heroic and we want to be a part of it, even if it’s just on the periphery.
And it made me think about a group of women I met in Kenya on one of my last days there. That morning we drove out to a remote village near the Tanzania border. While we were talking with a savings group that had been meeting for over a year, we noticed something unusual…one by one, a group of women were coming together under a nearby tree. They seemed very tentative and unsure of themselves. It was almost like they were appearing from the trees and bushes, standing on the edge of the clearing and trying to decide if they would step out into the clearing they would have to walk across to get to the others. It was obvious that difficult and personal decisions were being made right there as to whether or not they would come. We were desperately trying to focus on the stories that were being told to us by the translator, but if I am completely honest with you, I was mesmerized by what was happening. I didn’t understand, but I could tell it was a moment. After a while, I simply couldn’t stand it. I had to know!
A field officer from our partner organization Fadhili Trust who spoke Masaai, went over to the group of women to find out what was going on. It turns out that these women had heard about the Village Savings and Loan Association groups we were working with. They had seen the changes in the lives and livelihoods of others and wanted to learn more. They decided they weren’t going to wait. They were going to do whatever it took to get involved. They were going to “jump.”
By the end of the morning, a new group had been organized and their next meeting scheduled. We witnessed the spontaneous birth of a new group right before our eyes! Their bravery was seismic in scope. It literally changed their world. Those of us who were there celebrated with them, but what was really incredible was that they didn’t wait for others to clap and encourage…they started clapping and singing and dancing for themselves. They knew their actions took heroic bravery, and they celebrated themselves and each other.
In the pool, that little girl needed the cheers, the clapping, the involvement of others to take that leap. In Kenya, these women needed you and your involvement. Your partnership and support through World Relief Canada gave them the courage they needed to be brave. You might have missed seeing the jump, but the ripple effect will be felt for generations.
Their leap of faith was heroic, and you were a part of it. You are a partner in it. Without you there would have been no jump.
So thank you.
P.S. If you would like to partner with other women as they make a heroic leap in the face of poverty and fear, you can do so here. Designate your gift to the Cause of “Women” or “Microfinance” and we can cheer as more families find the courage and opportunity to work their way out of poverty.