I have been a worrier my entire life. Unfortunately, it is just the way that the Good Lord created me. I got tested for my first ulcer when I was in grade school - even at the ripe old age of 11, I was always worrying. There is no good reason behind my worrying and its something that I struggle to control most days. It may be worrying over something big that involves the kids or it could be something completely immaterial that wakes me up at 3:00 am and keeps me from sleeping. It is probably the trait that I dislike most about myself.
Unfortunately, I passed on my “worrying gene” to our son. He isn’t one to express it, but I always know when it’s there. I can see it on his face or tell it in the tone of his voice. I think he has learned to deal with it better than I have, thank goodness – but he is definitely a worrier! Nels, on the other hand, is the farthest thing from a worrier. He does not understand why people waste time and energy worrying about things they can’t control and has been known to get slightly (extremely) frustrated with me over the subject. I wish I had a $1 for every time he has said, “Would you just stop worrying!”. Our daughter falls somewhere in the middle of all of us. I admire her – she is always as cool as a cucumber!
This background all leads me to a story with our family from last summer. We love to go to the lake – nothing beats a good day on the water, but it ALWAYS ended with a fight because I was terrified to back the trailer into the water. A million scenarios would go through my mind of everyone watching me fail, or the car sliding into the lake or me simply never being able to back it between the curbs on the ramp with a line of people waiting. So, at the end of every great day, we would always end up in an argument because I was scared and Nels was frustrated. It all culminated one day and ended in a massive explosion between Nels and I in the parking lot at Sonic in Russell. Nels (deservedly so) completely lost it and started really letting me have it about just “sucking it up and backing the damn trailer in”. At the end of the argument, he and our son got back in the motorhome and our daughter and I got back in the car and I tearfully drove home. On the drive home, Nels and our son talked about what had happened and our son said to Nels, “You don’t understand how mom feels because you don’t worry about things, but I do because I worry too! I will teach her how to back the trailer in!”. I had no idea about this conversation but the next day when the kids and I went to the ranch to feed the cattle, our son hopped out of the car and placed two pieces of wood on the ground. He cheerfully yelled, “hook up the trailer, Mom…we are going to teach you how to back the trailer in!” So that’s what we did…he and I worked on me backing up the trailer with nobody watching and nobody yelling at me. Guess what…that day I learned how to back up the trailer and we have not had a single fight at the lake this year (at least not over the trailer). I am so thankful for our son and that day!
Do you know what drove our son to come up with a solution? EMPATHY. Our son had empathy for me because he knew how my stomach felt every time I thought about backing that trailer down and he let that empathy guide our entire family to a solution that would make our time together more enjoyable. It is a simple story but such a big idea! Empathy allows us the ability to truly feel someone else’s pain and relate to them – maybe even help them through whatever their struggle may be. Things are tough and crazy and unpredictable right now and I simply can’t think of a better time to pause and show a little empathy to those around you and possibly extend a hand of love and grace right now – even to those that may not always have the same views and convictions that you do. Give it a try! It just might make your corner of the world just a little better place to live!