by Jennifer Paros

Faith in oneself is the best and safest course. 

                                                        -- Michelangelo

Illustration by Jennifer Paros - Copyright 2011

Illustration by Jennifer Paros - Copyright 2011

Several years ago, a social worker named Julio Diaz was mugged during his subway commute to the Bronx.    A teenage boy threatened him with a knife and Julio gave him his wallet.  Then Julio offered him his coat to keep him warm, and suggested they have dinner together.  The boy questioned him but agreed. They went to a familiar diner; the mugger took note of how nice Julio was to everyone, saying, “I didn’t think people actually behaved that way.”  Diaz offered to treat for the meal but said he’d need his wallet back to do so; the boy returned it without hesitation.  Then he gave the teen twenty dollars and asked that he give him the knife.  And the boy did. 

Diaz later said, “I figure, you know, if you treat people right, you can only hope that they treat you right.” 

We are often taught that trust is to be reserved for those situations or people who present themselves in such a way as to inspire trust within us – those who have proven themselves trustworthy.  This is an idea that makes a kind of mathematical sense, but in no way speaks to the greater power of trust, the tremendous benefits it can garner, and doors it can open.   

Julio Diaz acted from trust – but not, necessarily, in the boy whose behavior was already skewed. He was trusting in his own truth and in doing so, reversed his robbery and allowed himself to step out of the role of victim.                         

Years ago, I was having a rocky time with my oldest son – who has always been a persistent, strong leader type.  We were often locked in state of mutual stubbornness and because of my husband’s work schedule, I was the one assisting with homework - homework my son did not want to be doing.  Those were difficult days – the specifics of which I no longer recall.  But what I do remember is how awful I felt about myself.  I got to the point where I was hating who I was when I was with him, and it was tearing me apart. 

             Our distrust is very expensive.

                                           -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

I had no active trust in him, our relationship, or me.  It had become about trying to control what was happening; I wanted things to go a certain way so I would feel better.  I was forgetting that what had to get done and how it had to get done were far from the point.  I wanted to be allowing love and I wasn’t.

Eventually I came upon a book that helped me understand the dynamic from a different angle. I softened my view on his criminal behavior and on me and began to see with new eyes.   I started putting my faith in a softer perspective.  And the more I backed off from control and leaned on this gentler view, the more I understood just how trustworthy my son and I both were.

In writing, we often talk about the lesson of trust - described as trusting yourself or trusting the story.  It’s the moment in which cerebral control is set aside for discovery.  The energy that originally compelled the writer to write is allowed the helm, and the writer goes along for the ride.  To the extent that we trust that intelligent energy, we experience its ability to open doors of new ideas and experiences. 

A little faith will bring your soul to heaven; a great faith will bring heaven to your soul.

                                                       -- Charles Spurgeon

Trust is a soft position - a position of openness.  It marks a turning point in every journey in which the powers that be become the powers within, accessed through one’s belief in and reliance on them.  There is no way to witness one’s strength without trusting oneself.

In the children’s classic The Secret Garden, Collin, erroneously convinced he is a cripple, must make the decision to trust in what he wants, rather than what he has previously believed.  Without trusting his personal truth, he can’t trust his legs and will never realize he can walk.  And without trusting our instincts and passions, we can never know how far they can take us.

Though it seems the critical, untrusting eye determines our safety, it is actually the kind eye.  The kind eye allows us to see what is trustworthy in life, as Julio Diaz did, and places our faith there, relying on something we cannot see but which bears the next best step, whether for the story we’re writing or the story we’re living.

Jennifer Paros is a writer, illustrator, and author of Violet Bing and the Grand House (Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle. Please visit her website at

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