Once upon a time there was a little goat named Bartholomew who avoided danger. He was small and soft and timid. He avoided danger because he felt fragile. He stayed under rocks and hid behind trees and never went near the road, or even well traveled paths.
For a time, his strategy worked and he stayed safe. But then he realized there were places he wanted to visit in the world. Places full of beauty and adventure. He heard stories from travelers of wonderful and dangerous adventures full of excitement and mystery. He wanted to experience these things but the only way to get there was to take the dangerous road.
He began questioning travelers. He wanted to learn how they survived their adventures in the midst of such danger.
Finally, he met a wise traveler named Wayne who told him to practice being adventurous. Wayne told him to undertake small adventures and travel short distances to less dangerous places until he became accustomed to travel.
That is exactly what Bartholomew did. He began climbing rocks instead of hiding under them. He walked on paths and swam across small ponds.
One day, Bartholomew climbed a larger rock than any he had climbed before. He got to the top and looked out at the world with great happiness. In his exuberance, he lost his footing and toppled over the edge, landing on his back in the dirt. For a moment, he couldn't breath and felt very afraid. But after a few moments, he took a ragged breath and flipped himself over. He looked at his legs, stretched and shook his head. He only had a small scratch on his left ear. He decided the view was worth the danger and scampered back up the rock.
The next day, Bartholomew was walking along the road toward a grove of trees he had never visited and he heard a terrible thundering behind him. He turned to see four giant black horses flinging mud from their sharp hooves as they charged toward him. He felt more afraid than ever before and lept off the path into the nearby ditch. He cowered, trembling in the water while the horses went by. He stayed there for some time staring after them with wide eyes. Suddenly, he realized that, other than being a bit wet and muddy, nothing had actually happened. As a matter of fact, he had just had a traveling adventure!
He felt much braver than before as he walked along the path.
Upon reaching the grove, he found a large pond with an island in the middle. He decided the island looked like a good place to lay in the sun. He jumped in the water and began paddling to the island. When he was half way there, he discovered it was much farther than he thought. At first, he was scared. Then, he remembered falling off the rock and jumping off the path and how it felt to be happy and brave. By the time he finished thinking about it, he was almost to the other shore.
He climbed out of the water and began walking to a large flat rock. As he made his way toward the rock, he stepped in a trap. It clanged shut and his leg made a crunching sound. It hurt very bad and made his eyes water, his heart beat fast and his stomach hurt. He could not pull it loose and the trap was chained to a big stick that was stuck in the ground.
He flopped down in the dirt. Not sure what to do next.
At that moment, Wayne the traveler appeared from the other side of the island. He reassured Bartholomew, complimented him on his bravery and wrapped up his hurt leg. Bartholomew felt much better after Wayne had noticed his bravery and helped with his leg. They sat in the sun and dried out. Bartholomew took a nap while Wayne found some sticks for a fire.
When Bartholomew woke up from his nap, he saw Wayne sitting by the fire, looking up at the stars and singing a traveling song. Even though his leg hurt a little, he felt safe and adventurous at the same time.
The world is dangerous. We cannot prevent bad things from happening. But if we give our kids chances to learn and if we help them when they are hurt, we can prevent bad things from ruining them.
I write about belonging, storytelling, community building, prevention, trauma, resilience, neuroscience, and epigenetics.