Thursday, December 20, 2007

There is Nothing To Fear

I just arrived home from my trip to the Middle East today. As I am trying to keep myself awake for a few more minutes (to begin my jet lag recovery), I'm watching the Tom Hanks Movie, Castaway.

If you haven't seen Castaway, I highly recommend it! When Hanks is first stranded on the island after the plane crash, he's beginning to focus on his survival. He makes a giant 'HELP' sign in the sand only to see it wash away in the surf. He reconstructs his sign out of drift wood, higher on the beach so it will stay put and be visible to anyone searching for him by air. He's also picking up Fed-Ex packages (that were on his plane with him) as they wash up on the shore.

All the while, he keeps hearing a strange noise. Each time he hears this noise, he is startled and frightened. He starts calling out to ask if anyone is there. He gets more and more frustrated as time goes by and he still can't figure out what is making the sound.

He is already in a state of panic and terror. He's been through the trauma of the plane crash and now finds himself alone on an island. He's a business guy and not exactly equipped for survival mode living. The noise that he is hearing feels threatening to him. He is terrified of whatever this noise is.

Suddenly, a coconut falls from a tree right over his head. The coconut lands right next to him as he hears the familiar 'thud' that has plagued him since arriving on the island. This is the first time he's actually seen what is causing the threatening noise.

Once he figures out how to crack the coconuts open, he is able to have his first taste of a potable liquid! The scary phenomenon actually is a huge gift!

How often do we do this to ourselves? From our perspective and state of mind, something appears in our life and we immediately assume it is a negative or dangerous occurrence. We don't necessarily know what it is, but we are frightened and assume it is there to harm or inconvenience us in some way. A lot of this has to do with our vantage point... our perspective. Hanks' character was already feeling pretty vulnerable when he started hearing the mysterious noise. He instantly interpreted this occurrence through the filter of his traumatic experience and his uncertainty about his survival. When he finally gets a true glimpse of what is causing the sound, he realizes it is not only harmless, it is probably essential to his survival!

Whenever something appears in our life and we aren't sure how to interpret it, we would do well to remember the lesson of the coconuts falling from the tree. It is best to not assume that something is there to harm us, but instead, take a look at our vantage point, make sure we are looking with fresh eyes, and see if there might not be a gift in the happening. It just might be a great gift for us, disguised as something unknown or potentially frightening.

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