Paralyzed with fear. Frozen in time. No avenue to turn, no place to go, my life stranded on a board high above the ground with no help to be found.
I was approximately 8 or 9 years old and new construction had started on a house across the street. My friends and I knew we shouldn’t be playing around a construction site, but the possibilities of this figurative fun house were too much temptation to bear. We had proceeded to exhaust our opportunities of playing towards the front and had moved to the back of the newly laid foundation. Unlike the front, there was no easy access from the ground to get into the basement area, as there was a deep trench between solid ground and the concrete block. To an 8 year old boy, it seemed like a football field, but in reality it was probably about an 8 foot span. The only avenue to get from the ground to the wall and into the basement was a wood plank. My friends fearlessly walked across the plank to jump down into the basement. Not wanting to miss the fun, but lacking the courage to walk across, I dropped down and began to crawl across the board. As each movement caused the board to shift, fear continued to build. Ice crept from my feet to my knees, to my shoulders, and down my arms until I was frozen halfway across the board.
When I froze, they all froze. They knew I was gripped with fear. They hoped to encourage me off the board and began to shout instructions. “Just move!” “You can do this!” “Don’t look down!” I heard them, but couldn’t manage a muscle to move. Unfortunately, I looked down. The drop was canyon-like in my mind, but it was more realistically in the 12-15 foot range. Either way the peril I faced was real. Underneath me was unlaid and piled concrete block that was left by the crew. The realization that at minimum my health was at stake and possibly my life. Friends began to panic as they were gripped with fear that I may be severely hurt and the equal fear of what would happen if we had to get our parents to save me.
I began to look at the possibility of turning around or crawling backwards as I made my first move in what seemed like hours, the board rocked and I barely maintained my balance. Petrified, I began to hysterically cry.
Jimmy McPhillips was a much older non-adult neighbor, but we always had a connection. Over the past year or so we joked that I was Batman and he was my Robin. Imagine an 8 year old claiming Batman and a 19 year old being OK with being Robin. It was comical to say the least. Yet, his kindness towards me will always be remembered. And on this day, he would be the hero.
It was almost cinematic as I felt the kids behind me split and a presence stepped onto the board. Jimmy leaned in, grabbed me around the waist, and with a quick turn, he returned me to safety. Jimmy was Batman.
As I began to reflect on what to write this week, I thought of that moment. How Jimmy impacted my life. How to this day, I feel such gratitude towards him. How his acts of kindness and courage have been imprinted on me. How one moment of concern for me followed by action made such a difference. Then I realized that we can all be Jimmy. We can all take a moment to rescue or help someone around us. We can humor them to let them know that they matter to us. We can embrace the power of humility to let the least of us, know that they are the greatest of us. If we are to RISE, let’s take others with us! I didn’t know Jimmy well, but I know how he made me feel. He made me feel important, appreciated, and that I mattered. Let’s inspire this world to step forward. Let’s inspire those around us by our actions. Let’s take a MOMENT to make a DIFFERENCE.
In heartfelt and appreciative memory of James McPhillips (1960-2008).