Sometimes in the national news, there’s something that jumps out at you, above and beyond the facts, and grabs your attention – and your heart.
That’s what happened to me this weekend hearing about the young seven-year-old girl named Sailor, who was the only survivor in a small plane accident that killed her parents, her sister, and her cousin.
Crashing in the woods in Kentucky, around ten o’clock at night, in near freezing temperatures, Sailor realized she was the only one who was alive. Somehow she extricated herself from the wrecked upside-down plane. With bloody nose, arms, legs and a broken wrist, dressed only in summer shorts and top, barefoot except for one sock, she walked through tangled woods, in the complete darkness, toward a light she saw ahead.
It was reported that she walked for almost a mile over fallen trees, creek beds, ditches, and blackberry briars. She finally reached a house and rang the bell, telling the elderly gentleman who lived there what happened.
Besides the emotional drama this story holds, I was totally drawn in to considering, how did this little girl have the grit, the determination, the exceptional bravery to do what she did.
As parents, I think, we are often caught in a delicate balancing act between allowing our children to explore their world and take some risks, while also fiercely protecting and preventing them from childhood adventures that in earlier decades would have been universal.
We see our children wearing capes and conquering pretend demons, practicing their power to be be brave. We watch our children pretend and creatively reconstruct the world around them to test themselves in it. In one of the photos shown on the news of young Sailor at an earlier time, she wore a t-shirt that said, “You can’t stop me!”
For all children yearn to explore their world. As parents, how do we weigh the risk and the development of courage and trust of oneself, with caution?
I stood talking to a mom on Friday in the Children’s room. Across the room was her three and a half year old daughter sitting in an invented and precarious position on a climbing apparatus. She was looking around smiling widely, hoping to be noticed. I believe I sensed her mom’s initial moment of hesitation to perhaps go to her or tell her to get down, but instead, she asked her daughter, “Do you feel safe?”
What a great response! Do you feel safe? Are you in control? These questions offer a child the realization of her own abilities and her own limitations and fears.
For courage/bravery is doing what you have to do even though you are scared to do it. That is what the little girl, Sailor did. That’s maybe what Wren was doing sitting atop the climbing apparatus. That’s what her wise mom was doing – when she refrained from rescue and instead asked “Do you feel safe?”
My heart goes out to this little girl, Sailor, age seven, in this time of great loss in her young life. I hope she knows how proud her family would surely be of her, how very brave she was.
I hope she feels safe.