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A Matter of Trust

Written by Randy Patterson

essential Billy Joel CoverClick Above To Order Your CopyA Matter of Trust
Originally posted June 3, 2012 – Reposted April 11, 2021 with changes

. . . And some might have learned to adjust, but then it never was a matter of trust . . .
From A Matter of Trust by Billy Joel

Many years ago (1979) I was a teller at a savings and loan in Sun City, Arizona. The elderly lady on the other side of the counter from me looked at me through eyes of distrust that bordered on pure hatred. I had no idea what I ever did to that lady because I was fairly certain that I had never seen her before in my life.

As I finished her transaction, she muttered something in a heavily accented voice that was not very nice. After she left, I turned to one of my co-workers and expressed my disbelief at how that woman treated me.
My co-worker then explained to me that the elderly woman was a holocaust survivor. She and her sister were raped repeatedly and, if I remember correctly, the sister died there. My elderly customer distrusted all men as a result.

I was horrified by the revelation. A week or two later, the woman came in and, by luck, I was privileged to serve her. It was then that I noticed the numbers on the inside of her wrist. What horror and tragedy those numbers represented to her and the world. Horror and tragedy that caused her to distrust – if not hate – all men. It became a way of life for her and how sad that was.

I found myself wishing that there was something I could do to restore her trust in men again – even at her age. I wished that I could’ve been at least one male person that she could view with trust and not suspicion. I wished that I could somehow wipe the pain and distrust caused by the horror she experienced. Naïve thoughts, for sure, but heartfelt just the same.

Since those days 42 years ago, I’ve had the privilege of meeting lots of people who have had plenty of reason to distrust others in some form or fashion. They’ve been hurt physically, emotionally, financially, socially, and sometimes, even spiritually. In fact, I asked a large group of my friends if they find it hard to trust people and, if so, why. The responses I received were astonishing.

Some have experienced unspeakable physical and psychological abuse. Others have been burned by close friends and/or family in various ways. Others have been abandoned by spouses or parents. Many have experienced various traumas via “the church”. One or two have experienced “all of the above”. My heart genuinely hurts along with these people and am horrified at the things that humans can do to each other.
To cope, many of these people have lowered their expectations of others and just expect that most everyone who they deal with are, ultimately, not trustworthy. To quote Billy Joel, they “have learned to adjust, but then it never was a matter of trust”.

I know that we’re not God nor can we be all things to all people who are hurting. Heck! We may be guilty of – or, at least, accused of – some of the above. But I’d like to think that, if each of us can do something to restore a certain level of trust in at least one other human being who we come in contact with, in time, the world will be a much better place.

Let us, again, hold doors open for others.

Let’s escort the elderly across the street.

Let’s mow the yards of those who can’t.

Let’s anonymously buy a cop, a soldier, a first responder their meal when we spot them in a restaurant. Heck! If they’re eating with their families, pay the whole ticket. Their families are paying the price, too.

If we are people of faith, let us be as St. Francis of Assisi reportedly said: 'Preach the gospel at all times. And if necessary, use words.' From what I see, we (and I include myself in this “we”) aren’t doing a very good job in this area. We debate with others instead of showing Christ-like love. When I “read the red” in a Bible, I only read of Christ speaking in a hostile manner to the religious leaders of his day, to his disciples (i.e., to Peter, “get thee behind me, Satan”) and to the demons he cast out.

But more importantly, try not to react to people we don’t know as I did to the holocaust survivor. We don’t know what that person has endured or is enduring. As a wise king in antiquity once wrote, “A soft answer turns away wrath; but grievous words stir up anger.”

Return hate with love; rage with loving silence; anxiousness with calm. I don’t know if doing such things will turn that person around, but we certainly wouldn’t be further fanning the flames of rage in them.