Why?

trustCrash! The glass bottle landed on the street in the middle of the intersection behind my house. Broken shards scattered across the pavement.

I’d heard the group of kids talking and laughing as they came down the street towards the park. They sounded like they were middle school-aged – old enough to know better, young enough to think it’s cool to make a bit of trouble. Of course, everyone drops things occasionally, but this time it had clearly been deliberate. Following the crash, a boy’s voice triumphantly announced, “Yea! We can break glass!!” as if it were an achievement.

Sitting in my back yard, I heard the whole thing and was angry. The kids weren’t cleaning up the glass – they had walked on to the park next door. I wanted the responsible person to clean it up, but I hadn’t seen who it was, so I at least wanted these kids to understand that this wasn’t a cool thing to do. How was I going to handle this?

I remembered my friend Carolyn telling me that people tend to be more cooperative when they understand why something is being asked of them, why they should or shouldn’t do something. While the reasons not to break glass in a street seemed obvious, I decided I’d handle the situation by reminding the kids why they shouldn’t leave broken glass on the ground.

I admit I made a bit of a show of carrying my broom and metal dust pan outside to the street and, in their clear view, gingerly picking up the larger pieces, sweeping up the glass, scraping the noisy dustpan on the pavement for a little audio effect.

But, I didn’t overdo it, and I carefully checked my anger, righteous indignation and tendency to be sarcastic, as I carried the broom and full dustpan into the park. Addressing the whole group of kids, I kept my voice even when I said, “Please don’t break glass. There are young children who walk across this street to the park every day. If they were to trip and fall on broken glass, it would hurt them, they’d have to go to the emergency room to have the glass removed, and it would cost their parents a lot of money. I don’t know if you’ve ever gone through this, but I’ve had glass in my foot, and it’s very painful.” One of the boys said, “Yea, I have, too.” I nodded to him in commiseration.

I added, “Cars drive by here day and night. Glass rips up tires and it takes more time and money to replace them. People also walk their pets on this street all the time. Same thing – glass in a dog’s paws will hurt him and cost its owner a lot of money to have it removed. It’s bad all around…Please don’t break glass.” I walked away, dumped the glass in the park trash barrel and went home.

I don’t know if the “why’s” I told those kids had a lasting impact on them, but I never saw any of them deliberately break glass after that.

My friend Carolyn’s principle about understanding why is a good one. I know I am more cooperative and reasonable when I understand the why in a situation. From the most mundane– why someone is late for our appointment, why traffic has backed up, why the cost of milk has risen – to the more challenging – why someone feels mad or hurt, why something is happening that seems unfair – knowing why brings meaning, sense, and a rationale to the situation.

In most situations, we can find answers to the question why that satisfy us. But in others, there isn’t a clear-cut reason why we’re going through what we’re going through. Maybe we’re struggling with why it’s taking so long to find a life partner, or why our career hasn’t taken off. Depending on the complexity of the situation, we may not have an answer for a long time. Without the benefit of understanding why, we might even start to imagine the worst, thinking something is wrong with us or believing things will never change.

What do we do in the interim, while we’re waiting for understanding to come? How can we stay centered, calm and grounded?

Sometimes, the “tried and true” methods prove to be the most helpful, and I think the classic approach – trust – is the best one to try. By trusting, we can better withstand not having reasons and explanations for why something is or isn’t happening.

The thing is, trusting isn’t that easy to do! Though we’re told to “Just trust, stop fretting, stay in the moment,” this can be hard to sustain. I can start out trusting, but then fear creeps in and takes me out of the present moment and into a future that I imagine riddled with problems or difficulties. I don’t know if what I’m imagining might come about, though I do know that this negative vision certainly isn’t the one I want to hold. But difficulties are a possibility in the spectrum of what might be coming, so I don’t ask myself to trust in a future without challenges.

Instead, what I trust is my capacity to deal with the problems and difficulties that may come along. My track record’s pretty good – I’ve made it so far (though admittedly at times more easily and successfully than at others). I have managed to meet problems and difficulties and survive. In doing so, I’ve learned that I can trust my Self – as in my Highest Self, my Guided Self, my Essence – to see me through. So, when I have to suspend knowing why something is the way it is, I trust that I will survive what comes – and probably even grow through the process.

There will always be things that don’t tidily explain why they’re happening, why we need to act in a certain way. If only life’s reasons were all as simple as “don’t break glass because it causes pain and inconvenience!” But we can stay grounded, calm, and fully functioning in our lives during the times that don’t have discernible reasons by staying in the present and trusting our Essence to guide us.

Trusting is a spiritual practice and therefore something to experiment with and cultivate. Life certainly brings us plenty of opportunities to practice trust! In times of not knowing why, let’s trust and see how it goes.

Comments

  1. Isabel Leonard says:

    My “Why?” story goes back a few years to the first time I was called for jury duty in Massachusetts. I was instructed to go to Lowell District Court first thing on the appointed morning. Lowell is the other side of Boston from Watertown where I lived, and there were no Google Maps then to give an estimate of driving time. “Why,” I grumbled to myself, “can’t they send me to Cambridge District Court next door?”. I arrived sleep-deprived and resentful. Only later did I find out that they do this to reduce the changes of jurors being acquainted with any of the litigants. Perfectly sensible. My coping technique was to bring along a copy of “Bridget Jones Diary” to read during the long wait before we were called into court. This turned out to be so funny that I couldn’t help giggling out loud on occasion, no doubt still further irritating my colleagues who were either staring miserably into the middle distance or tapping on some electronic device, ignoring even the ancient magazines on the table. I guess Janet’s “trust” technique would have been better.

    • Spiral Energies says:

      This is a good example of how understanding WHY helps us through the difficult experience we’re having. Your colorful setting of the story and giggling out loud (I can just see it in the jury waiting room!) was wonderful. Thank you for writing, Isabel!

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