Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Fear and Shoes

Thoughts on fear...

Many years ago we were in Switzerland visiting the other half of the fam.  We were in a gondola with my dad's cousins and I was freaking out.  Okay, not so onlookers were concerned, but my party knew I was "not right."  The rush of relief upon stepping once again on terra firma was like stepping into the presence of God.  

I have major panic-attack fear of heights.  Airplanes, cliffs, even ski lifts.  My fear does not stop me often, but sometimes it's just too overwhelming.  I've traversed the world in aircraft, swooshed the best slopes in the Rockies and Quebec, lived, worked and dined in skyscrapers, and even rode a camel down a slippery sand dune to the riverbed of the Nile.  However, I stayed in the lobby while others visited the top of the Empire State Building, canceled a plane trip to visit an old friend for a girl's weekend, and walked down the edge of the Grand Canyon rather than trust a donkey's footing (hoofing?).  I make it through obstacles most of the time, but not all of the time...

So, we're lunching atop a Swiss alp and dad's cousins are poking fun at my fear of heights.  As expert mountain climbers who pick (quite illegally) edelweiss, my gondola reaction is inconceivable to them.  Then, the subject turns to their upcoming trip to the States.  What will they see, do, explore?  Dad recommends rafting down the Colorado River.  

"Nein, nein!" screams Hildegarde. 
"Whaat?" we exclaim, thinking dad's botched his Deutsch.

The meaning was clear, just seems Hildegarde is deathly afraid of water.   

Oh, my dad asks in perfect German, like Cat is afraid of heights?

Aha!  Beyond overcoming a language barrier, we have now navigated adeptly into the realm of walking in another's shoes.

As a new vampire for the Red Cross, I've come to realize that people actually have a problem with needles and blood.  It never enters my mind personally.  I don't even think about it.  Others are not so blase.  To them, needles or blood are HUGE issues.  

A friend emailed me and wished me congratulations on my job, but he said, "you may not have my blood." 

I offered to hold his hand and everything--we at the Red Cross are full service employees.  Yet the answer was still, "nein."

I inquired as to why and he replied that he has an "unexplainable, undesired, uncontrolled psychological response" to needle sticks.  Whoa.  

When I put myself in his shoes, thinking what it would be like to have to hop on a chopper to give a pint of blood, the understanding literally pulsed through my veins.  Putting your fear in place of someone else's fear gives you close perspective to their pain.

I vow never to push anyone to give blood.  But, if you can, we need it.

No comments: