Trust Falls with Strangers

If my plane were to drop from the sky no one would know, right away, what had gone wrong.

Had TSA missed something and someone smuggled a gun or a bomb on board? Had the ground crew missed a catastrophic failure leading to a fire or broken wing? Had the pilot gone drinking or stayed out too late or had a heart attack? Or were we damned from the start and the folks at Boeing miscalculated or made an engineering error?

When I got on the plane, and more importantly, when my mother allowed me to, there was no one moment of leaping into the darkness. There were a million tiny acts of trust that culminated in getting on. Trust in the check in counter to get my bags checked and loaded, trust in the TSA agents to keep me laughing, informed, and safe, trust in the captain to do her or his job.

Often, when we think about faith, we think about a “leap” of it. And don’t misunderstand me, there are leaps. Diagnoses and the loss of a child. Accidents and depression. There are moments where we are called to leap before we look, plunge headfirst into the darkness and trust that God, or whoever, will catch us before we shatter into a million pieces. I wonder, though, if it’s possible for us to turn just before we do so. If we could look back at the cliff we didn’t know we were descending and realize the millions of tiny steps of faith we took in the process of getting to the cliff’s edge.

As I face the last quarter, the last 10 weeks, of college, it feels like I’m careening toward a cliff’s edge, poised and ready to fall. But if I pause, and look back, I’m reminded of tiny steps. Friends made in a foreign land, opportunity presented to me I didn’t earn to further my career and clarify my vocation, decisions to return to public spaces despite the fear of mass shootings. Tiny acts of faith, millions of them, led me to the cliff’s edge I’m staring down.

If I lose my cool, it’s a deep descent into darkness. If I can work to remember, all it is is 14 tiny steps all at once. Or 20. Or 100. Trusting the TSA officer, believing in the good of my fellow passengers, even if it’s naive. It’s either one giant leap of faith to leap from the tarmac into the air, or a culmination of a million trust falls with total strangers. Cogs in a machine designed to achieve the impossible.

It all depends on how I’m thinking about my life: as momentary and fleeting, or as a journey that’s leading me to the kind of security it took the worth of a human life to secure.

Bryce’s debut collection can be purchased here. 25% of the profits go to organizations like RAINN, 1in6, and End The Backlog. He writes short stories for free here.

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