Risky Business

What sort of risks do you take? And are they really risky? I mean, what will the consequences be?

A couple of years ago I took a solo road trip around the country for several weeks. And I can’t tell you how many people said, “Wow; what a brave thing to do” or something like that. Except it wasn’t really that risky; it didn’t require that much bravery. In an era where we have GPS navigation, cell phones, rest areas or business establishments every few miles, and AAA memberships (not to mention fairly far-flung networks of friends and family), really how much boldness does it take to drive  a car (with electronic warning systems) around the country? Not much. Unless the chance that I’d have to stay at my second favorite chain motel instead of my top pick qualifies as high drama.

Safety is overrated. We miss so much of life if we must be protected from any possible unforeseen consequences, minor hurts, or the preservation of control.

That said, I personally am a physical wimp. I’m not going to go bungee-jumping. But I’ll take relational or interpersonal risks in the realm of vulnerability and reconciliation. And that freaks some people.

How do you do with risk? What’s your personal “risk factor?”

Check out this great story from 1910. Two brothers, Temple and Louis Abernathy, ages 5 and 8, did a solo 1300 mile journey on horseback from Oklahoma to Roswell, New Mexico. Their father, a U.S. Marshall, limited them to 35 miles per day. They went alone. On horseback. Their father was proud of his boys who did this in response to his desire for them to “toughen up.” They later set a record for crossing the country on horseback (62 days) at the ages of 7 and 10.

Here’s a quote from their dad in a New York Times article from 1910: “I was scared at first to let them take such a  long trip, but I finally consented as I knew that if anybody’s boys could do it, mine could. Last year they rode to Mexico and back, and mixed with cowboys, Indians and outlaws, but nobody harmed them.”

Today a kid, when told to “toughen up,” would try a bite of broccoli (maybe!) or walk to school once on a rainy day or finish a soccer game and not have orange slices provided by a mom.

Hyperbole… yes. But really, what are our risks today? How calculated are they? What will happen if what we plan doesn’t turn out just right? Will we be eaten by wolves or will we just have to rethink our sense of control?



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