West Union United Methodist Church
Friday, October 19, 2018
Luke 10:27

Pastor's Corner



Consider This… From Chris

   In 1960 my family went on vacation to Cayuga Lake, one of the Finger Lakes in central New York state.  It’s an area of stunning beauty and amazing history, which of course I knew nothing about at five years old. I just enjoyed playing on the beach, catching my first sunfish, riding in a borrowed motor boat, and wading in the lake since I could not yet swim.  The cabin we stayed in was just a little ways up the beach from Rod Serling’s cabin. It was like being close to the Twilight Zone.  I’m pretty sure we saw him go by in his fancy boat one time.

            One day I was “fishing” off the dock, which for me meant tying a string on a pole and dragging it in the water. Dad was sitting in a beach chair reading nearby.  I would run up one side of the dock and back down the other, hoping a fish would just grab hold. Unfortunately, with unfettered excitement and serious lack of control, on one last run I failed to make the turn at the end of the dock and went headfirst into the water, where I found myself floating on my back, a few inches underwater, flailing my arms and legs in panic and helplessness.

            There was nothing I could do to help myself.  My father, however, stirred from his reading by the sudden cessation of sound from my direction, threw down his paper and also ran off the end of the dock.  The memory is as vivid today as when I was five, and it brings me to tears even as I write about it. Through three inches of water I saw him jump in, felt him pick me up and set my feet safely on the dock.  He held me for a moment as I cried and we walked together up the steep stairs from the beach to the cabin.

            I could wax poetic now about rescue and perhaps sometime I will, but what I want us to consider is the trauma.  I was fourteen before I finally learned how to swim, and even then it was difficult.  Every time I get near the water, I remember.  When I shower, I remember.  Every time.  When I go kayaking or swimming, or even wading in the beautiful waters of Lake Superior, I remember.  Every time.  I was underwater less than 15 seconds, by my current reckoning, and it was an eternity which has affected me for the last 58 years.

            I have never written about the experience, though I have talked it about many times.  I not only shed some tears as I am writing, but I feel more than a hint of the panic as well.  We would do well to treat those who have experienced trauma, of whatever kind, with gentleness and patience.  Someone asked me, “Why didn’t you just turn over and stand up? The water wasn’t that deep.” Not helpful. Other questions I hear in the current ethos of trauma victims coming forward are equally unhelpful. “Why were you there in the first place? Why didn’t you fight back? Are you sure your memory is clear?  Why did you wait so long to tell?  Can’t you just get over it and move on?”

            I cope with the feelings and the occasional surges of panic.  I still shower and kayak and swim a little.  I will never “get over it.”  Be gentle.  Be understanding.  Please don’t blame the traumatized, nor cause trauma to others.  It doesn’t go away.

                     Chris                        Shalom,