Teri Vance: Friends help friends work through fear

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to go to college. School was fun for me, and learning still gives me an emotional rush.

I worked hard to earn good grades, which in turn afforded me scholarships to pay for my secondary education. I was proud of that accomplishment when I graduated from Wells High School, and I was ready to take that next step.

Or so I thought.

The day before I was to leave to attend the University of Nevada, Reno, I became paralyzed by fear.

I stared at an empty suitcase, unable to make any decisions about what to put inside.

I sobbed to my parents. I begged them not to make me go. Just that year, Wells got its first fast-food restaurant — Burger King — and I swore if they let me stay home I’d get a job there and work my way up.

They both just walked away. I’m sure they had no idea where it was coming from or why.

Neither did I. All I knew is that I was terrified.

Growing up on ranches hours from the nearest town — Elko was the largest population center I was familiar with — I was nervous about moving to Reno — which, at the time, I thought was on par size-wise with New York City or Los Angeles.

But that wasn’t all of it. I think it was too much change at once, loaded with expectation.

In the midst of my stupor, my friend Nancy showed up. Nancy was a year older than me, so she had one year under her belt at Brigham Young University.

The two of us lived together when we boarded out — because we lived so far away — to go to Elko High School. She was always a pragmatic, steady friend. She had come to say good-bye before I left, but found me sitting on my bedroom floor, with nothing done.

I can imagine it was not what she was expecting, but she never let on if she was freaked out.

She just started going through my things and asking, one by one, if I wanted to take it or leave it.

Making one decision about one thing was much easier than thinking about everything I had to do. And, soon, I was packed.

From there, I could do the next thing, then the next thing.

To this day, I don’t think Nancy knows what a critical kindness she extended me. She just saw a friend who needed help and helped her.

I’ve been thinking of this moment, as tensions in this country have escalated — with friends turning on each other for differences in ideology.

While there are certainly times, we need to draw boundaries and distance ourselves from unhealthy relationships, there are also times we can extend one another grace.

It may be easy to see people — gripped in their own irrational fears and making unwise decisions — and ridicule them or walk away.

But we can also get down on the floor with them, see their fear — because fear really is at the root of the majority of the anger coursing through this country — and help them move through it.

Maybe it doesn’t solve the entire problem, but it gets us moving in the right direction.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment