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Risk, trust, reward, wonder

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A five-year-old boy stood  perched atop a steep rockymountain in the Elgin Valley. To the west stretched the wildly beautiful Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve. Below him, the ground fell away down into a steep gorge – through which the Coca-Colacoloured Palmiet River gurgled and flowed.

I was halfway down into that gorge – looking back up at the boy, my wildly curlyhaired son. He was wearing a life-jacket, to which was tied a rope. I called up the mountain to him: “Down you come, My Boy!” He hesitated briefly. Then a man standing next to him said to him: “Go for it – it’s safe. I promise.” And so my little son began to abseil down the steep mountainside, into the gorge – lowered slowly by the man above. I remembered that day about eight years later, when my son turned 13, a teenager.

On his birthday, I emailed three people, and asked them: “May I ask you to be an Elder, to my son?” They all said yes, to my delight. On that day in the Elgin Valley, I had learned a crucial lesson as a parent. I learned that as a father who is extremely close  to his son, I would always be his primary guide. But that he could be hugely enriched by the guidance of other men and women too.

My son has many such people in his life. But among them, he has a special few. And what makes their relationships extra-precious, is that they are built on trust. Trust that has been earned and actually experienced in real life. I first understood the power of this on that day on the mountain. I had called to my son, from down in the gorge. He had been uncertain.

But the man on the mountaintop, who held my son’s life in his hands, clutching the safety rope, had told him: “Go for it  – it’s safe. I promise.” My son had trusted him – completely – and his trust had been proven to be deserved. My son had abseiled down the gorge, to where I had waited, and we had together clambered down the last part of the pristine river gorge, down to the cool, dark, river pools and had swum side-byside, whooping in the exquisite
water.

My son, aged five, had learned first-hand: Risk, Trust, Reward, Wonder! The man on the mountaintop was one of the three people I asked to be my son’s elders. I knew: my son will many, many times in his life,  need guidance, advice, caution, encouragement. Not only from people in positions of trust – family, teachers, school principals, coaches, priests – but from individuals of proven trust. Like the man, my friend, whose actions that day, on the top of the mountain, showed, in the most powerful possible way:
“Nic, you can trust me.

Written by Murray Williams You are reading Risk, trust, reward, wonder articles

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