One day two 9-years old boys rang to my door. It was quite unusual for me to see them as they’ve never come to visit us before. I didn’t even recognize their faces. I was not sure if they were our new neighbors or they were randomly going from one door to another. This kind of visit makes me suspicious. I never know what to expect and how I should behave. To be honest, we’re rarely visited by our neighbors as we’re hardly ever at home during the day.
That Saturday morning was different. That Saturday morning we were not in a rush. I took my time to make pancakes for breakfast and I had a coffee at home. Weird. But that morning everything seemed a bit weird. Except for the weather which was predictable for this time of the year. What was not predictable were two young boys standing in front of me and holding a flower. A freshly cut, red tulip.
My first thought was that they’d ask for money or even worse, that they’d steal something. You know this moment of consternation when you turn into your most primary instinct, that is fight or flight. I assure you that it works even with two innocent boys staring at you and waiting for your reaction. So I politely refused. I wanted to get rid of them as soon as possible to continue my weird morning. I was not feeling like guessing what was their intention. What was a hidden meaning. What did they want to get from me. “Nothing is for free” – an old good saying came to my thoughts. But since I’m not very good at getting rid of people and shutting my door in front of their nose, I asked an auxiliary question:
– What’s the occasion for bringing this flower?
– Actually, no occasion – replied one of the boys – our mom managed to grow the very first tulips this year and wanted to share them with neighbors.
I got a little choked up. Then, I felt embarrassed. I felt ashamed. One of the boys extended his hand and offered me the flower. Another one smiled kindly to me. That was a sort of speechless moment when no words were needed. After a while of consternation, I accepted the flower and thanked for it. Until the rest of the day, I was trying to get over it.
We’re raised believing that nothing is for free. We’re taught to be careful with people who give us something complimentary. We live in a world when everybody expects something from us. We’re in times of uncertainty and upheaval. It’s hard to talk about the trustworthiness being surrounded by people and companies whose only goal is to sell us something. We got used to saying: No, thank you. If I walk on the street and someone offers me a free gift, I’m almost always guaranteed it comes together with a request for money, subscription or information. Even if someone close offers you a real gift, isn’t it meant to trigger a specific reaction in you? To make you smile, to make you feel good, to make you like the person who offered the gift? I believe there’s always a hidden intention behind every deed like this. We can’t say that the gift is given totally for free. It has a role to play.
Recently, someone said very wisely that the most dangerous things come with what you’re given for free. It’s like with social media. You don’t have to pay in order to become a member of most popular social portals. But does it mean they give you something for free? That they don’t want anything from you? Of course, not. They want your time. They want your attention. They want to influence your decisions. Eventually, they want to sell you something. We’re not any better. We try to sell or buy a number of things with the gifts we offer.
Regardless of the intention those two boys or their mother got, I found myself feeling stupid for having automatically mistrusted them. I thought: What kind of person have I become? Don’t I believe anymore in people? How is it possible that I’m suspicious even as regards two innocent kids? On the other hand, after having experienced many disappointments in this matter, is it surprising that we struggle to trust people? Especially if we don’t know them well.
Moreover, it’s not unusual that children are used by adults with the purpose to get money. This is something that I don’t accept and I don’t agree to support in any case. Maybe, that’s the reason why misgivings were my first reaction. Another thing is that knowing what happens around, how many children are kidnapped or abused while staying alone out of their home, I doubt that I would send my child alone anywhere, even to the neighbor’s property. Call me hyper-vigilant or overprotective, but I would never forgive myself if something happened to my children. That’s why seeing two small boys at my door was not natural for me.
It is said that trust or mistrust is based on our previous experiences. If something negative happened in the past, we’re more inclined to associate any kind of similar occurrence to aforesaid incidents. What’s interesting is that it works also in the opposite way. We’re more likely to trust a stranger who looks like someone who has earned our trust before (source: The Guardian). Trust issues as well as unconditional trust are the notions that significantly depend on subconscious pairing.
Many of us believe that trusting equals being naive. That it results in being taken advantage of. That it makes us lose control. Although I wouldn’t completely sign under these statements, I cannot deny that trusting, at first sight, comes quite difficult for me. We usually trust in something which is somehow predictable. Something we know. Something related to our values. However this way, we may discard the opportunity to get a valuable experience deriving from meeting the unknown. If I’m not open to the unknown, I deprive myself of expanding my knowledge and enjoying unexpected small or big miracles.
Expect the best, be prepared for the worst.
The story of two young boys bringing me a freshly cut flower taught me to be more confident about the goodness lying in other people. Even if this goodness is not always fully unconditional, it’s an expression of our humanity. Miracles happen somewhere between the lines. Hardly ever, they’re available on a silver plate. In order to let them happen, we need to trust they exist. I’ve decided to believe more in people. To give them the benefit of the doubt. This is how we create unforgettable moments. This is how we encourage others to reach their best.
In general, do you trust people at the first meeting or you rather distrust them?
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