While I was in South America, people asked me about Donald Trump.

“We don’t understand,” they would say frantically. “Why are the American people interested in this madman? How can you explain it to us in a way that makes sense?”

One person, an Argentine, said Trump was like a monkey with a knife. I replied that we use a slightly different expression for that (and in my opinion, a more polite one) ~ the idiom “like a bull in a china shop.” Exchanges like that are one reason I love to travel.

The explanation I offered for Trump’s popularity is that the American people are scared: of ISIS, of the changing economy, and of changes being made to their country they feel are outside of their control, such as a recent Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage. Change is hard for most humans, and unpredictable change, like an unforseen act of terrorism, is particularly hard. But excessive fear? That is crazy-making.

If I had a magic wand and could change one thing about humankind, especially Americans, I would throttle back their level of fear. Sure, we need some fear, to protect us, but American fear is disproportionally high relative to the real risk. Excessive fear does not reduce risk, it increases it, by leading us to hazardous thinking. And right now, we need clear thinking more than ever.

Who are the most fearful?

Scratch the surface of any fundamentalist, religious, political, or otherwise, and you will find a very fearful person. Right-wing Christians are especially fearful, which is strange, because their Bible warns them against it.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

Enough said on that.

As for my own fears, I have found most of them come to naught, as illustrated in this short poem called “The Sump Pump” that I wrote a few years ago about a real incident from my childhood. I hope its message works a tiny bit of magic on you today, helping you to be less fearful, and taking you further along the path to being “made perfect in love.”


The Sump Pump

I was five. Maybe six

The sump pump lived in the basement

A horned troll who would awaken suddenly

and without warning

pounce on little boys

carrying them down the drain

over which it had dominion

which was its lair.

My brothers took a length of rope

flaxen brown and frayed

and wrapped me with it

One held while the other tied

taut stripes burned into innocence

grill marks on a chicken breast.

They laid me like a mummy

next to the pump

laughed and ran away

My heart pounded

My breathing shallow

Too scared to cry

The pump ticked softly: The troll licking his chops

Considering his next victim

then coming alive with a ghoulish howl.

Next? A strange thing


When is it midnight?

When does night reach its apex and bow to day?

When does black absorbs its first drop of blue, becoming indigo on its way to rosy dawn?

There Wisdom called me

like Lazurus being called from the tomb.

I came to life

and stumbled towards light

that terrible cave with its monster

behind me now.

“Unwrap him,” She said

And then She blessed me

with a holy gift

this spark of truth:

Those things we fear most

often come to nothing.

Share This