I Faced the Danger Voluntarily.

I am re-reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Maya Angelou’s writing leaves me utterly awestruck. This is one of the few books I can read again and again, learning from it every time.

Usually one of her casual phrasings will stop me in my tracks – which happened early in Chapter 2 this time. She wrote:

“Like most children, I thought if I could face the worst danger voluntarily, and triumph, I would forever have power over it.”

“Like most children…” she said.

Apparently I am not like most children.

I rarely consider attempting to “triumph” over danger – let alone the worst danger. In fact, if danger lurks, I hide. If something truly scares me, I freeze. If I have to face adversity, I do it involuntarily.

If I am scared of something, I never, ever tackle it head-on. And I surely didn’t do this as a child.

But I will never forget what Dylan did. He did just what Maya Angelou said that “most children” do. But personally, I think he and Maya Angelou are just superstars.

He went to the zoo with his grandparents, and a gorilla stood up inside its glass enclosure. Dylan was three, and the gorilla was a huge and hulking monster on the other side of that glass.

And the gorilla was having a bad day. It stood up and kicked the glass – right at Dylan’s level. The terror that must have filled Dylan is unthinkable.

And Dylan was terrified. He came home chattering and repeating, like a mantra: “The goll-ill-a KICKED da gwass!”

Several days later, we went to the library. Dylan specifically requested books on gorillas. He got every one he could find. He read fiction and non-fiction alike. He devoured information on gorillas. He asked to see pictures on the computer. Then – three months later – he asked to BE a gorilla for Halloween. So we got him a gorilla costume.

Dylan was a toddler, and he was tackling his fear head-on. He learned everything he could learn, and eventually determined that he understood gorillas enough to no longer be afraid.

He believes he will “forever have power over it.”

Today – this month – Dylan is working at Field of Screams. He walked the trail once, maybe twice, having people scare him.

Then he tackled that fear, too. For two years, he has worked behind the scenes at a place that so terrifies me, I didn’t even walk the trail when I knew he was working there. When I picked him up at the end of the night, he came to the car in make-up that made it tough for me to talk to him. Blood-spattered or green-and-gooey, his face was too creepy even for his mom.

I’ve seen every concert, every sports performance, and every play Dylan has ever done. But the Trail of Terror was too much for me.

So finally, this year I went to see him at work.

I faced the danger voluntarily. I dreaded it all day long. I begged the workers to start our ride before dark, because I didn’t want (Shane) to be too scared.

But we went. I went. I walked through all the scary trails and houses. And it was definitely scary. But we had an absolutely wonderful time. Dylan scared the crap out of me, as did some others. But it was actually quite fun.

I don’t know that I have any new power over what frightens me.

But thanks to Maya Angelou and Dylan, I learned that I can try.

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