May 6, 2020

My parents used the following phrase, “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” to help me in decision-making that could be influenced by peer pressure. I suspect that you grew up with that same parental gem.

My mother took it a step further. If she was worried that my sisters or I were feeling tempted by the crowd, or our own impulses, she’d tell us a story about her friend, Christine, who had done the same thing with tragic results. Here’s one I heard often. I wanted to learn how to do summersaults, and was caught practicing in the living room. Mom said, “I had a friend, Christine, who was doing a forward roll and broke her neck.” Christine, bless her dear heart, must have had more lives than a cat because she suffered mortal injuries or illnesses from choking on nuts, getting kidnapped by a garbage collector, not covering the seat of a public toilet with toilet paper before sitting on it, and dying of Typhoid Fever after drinking water from a spring, to name a few.

I was a bit of a risk-taker, so mom probably had a good reason for wanting me to exercise caution. I clearly remember the time my friends and I experimented with riding a bike that was missing a chain. This was in the age before handbrakes on bikes. The only way to stop was the push down on the pedal to stop the chain from moving. Without a chain, it was pure speed until you hit level ground, or a solid object. 

I hopped on and flew down the hill next to our house, thinking I would safely coast to a stop before exiting our back yard. What I hadn’t counted on was the speed I’d built up, which carried me through our yard into the neighbor’s yard, which also slopped down. I also had not taken into consideration the wire strung between two trees that served as a “run” for their dog. When my chest hit the wire, the bike kept going, but I was stopped in my track. 

Back at home, scrubbing my cuts mom alternated between sobbing that I could have died, and scolding me for doing something so foolish. When she’d calmed down, she told me the story about her friend Christine who did something equally dangerous, broke her neck, and died. 

As states begin to “reopen” I’ve been thinking a lot about my parents’ warning to not do what everyone else is doing, just because they are doing it. That was, and still is, sound advice. In the 1994 movie of the same name, Forrest Gump put it this way, “Stupid is as stupid does.” Please exercise good sense, “Count the cost,” as Jesus reminds us in a parable (Luke 14:48). 

Stay safe. My mom had a friend named Christine who… ~ Anne

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