As I entered the little white church alone at the impressionable age of seven, I was pleasantly startled by the tender touch of a soft, wrinkled old hand on my little shoulder. She said her name was Mrs. Grace and she asked me if I would like to come and sit with her during the service. I eagerly accepted her invitation and followed her into a nearby wooden pew. She must have noticed my anxiety and nervousness. I’m sure this scared, neglected, abused child with long hair must have looked so awkward and out of place, but Mrs. Grace didn’t seem to mind. As I sat there next to her, she put her loving arm around me and instantly created a SAFE PLACE for me.
“You can’t catch me!” yelled Belinda, her long brown ponytail wagging behind her as she dashed playfully around the spacious elementary school playground during recess. It didn’t take long before I caught up to her and grabbed both of her arms from behind her back, bringing her to a valiant halt. “Caught you!” I said victoriously. We both buckled over in laughter as we lavishly gulped up the fresh spring air.
Do you remember playing the game of chase when we were kids? In that game, there was always a specific space that we designated as being safe. When we would finally reach it, we would eagerly yell out the secret code word – “Safe!” In that moment, we knew we were protected and okay. Within each of us is a deep-seated need to be accepted by others—to feel safe. Isn’t it true that we feel safe when we feel accepted by others? It is equally true that we feel accepted when we feel safe.
I understand that feeling safe in this life is limited because everything meaningful involves some degree of risk. However, I believe that within the innocent child’s game of chase, with the gentle touch of a kind elder, we can find a very practical solution to satisfy this inner longing to feel safe and accepted. We do so by establishing a SAFE PLACE. As we create a safe place for others with our acceptance, we in return create a safe place for our self. It’s the universal spiritual law of sowing and reaping put into action.
Walking by the two young, perfectly sculpted women at the gym that afternoon, I heard their laughter and crude remarks. As I glanced over in the direction they were staring, I saw a frustrated, overweight middle-aged woman struggling to readjust the seat on the leg-extension machine. I quickly walked over and asked her if I could help. Startled, seeming surprised that anyone cared, and embarrassed by her dilemma, she timidly said, “Oh, I’m sorry, sir; I really don’t want to bother you.” “You’re not bothering me,” I said, reassuring her with a smile as I adjusted the seat for her. Appearing relieved, she smiled back and thanked me as she eagerly sat down in her new SAFE PLACE.
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