274. Tying Your Camel

There’s an Arabic proverb which says, “Have faith in Allah, but tie your camel.” Children (and adults) want us to trust them, and are occasionally offended when our words or behaviors suggest that we don’t. As I see it, trust is a concept that is more complicated than it’s sometimes seen to be. You’ve got to have faith that a person means well, is capable, will remember, and is lucky.
I have lots of faith in lots of people, but there are some things I insist on doing myself. I once let a trusted friend mail some things for me, including a checking account deposit. A few weeks later, several checks bounced. My trusted friend had mailed the deposit, but had gotten distracted, and had taken a little extra time to do it. Now, a little sadder and a little wiser, I mail everything myself. I still trust my friends, but I only trust them to be as reliable as I am, and since I’m forgetful, I trust them to be forgetful, too.
And when a child asks, “Don’t you trust me?”, there isn’t necessarily an easy answer. I, personally, usually trust children’s intentions. I think they want to be responsible, honest, competent – trustworthy. But I think there’s a lot more to it than that.
Let’s follow a child named Terry as she/he takes some money to a nearby convenience store to get a dozen eggs. My parents trusted me, thinks Terry, and I’m going to show them that that’s wise. The first thing Terry sees in the store is some candy. Terry’s parents have told him/her it’s okay to get some candy with the change. But there are also some stickers that look really attractive. No, thinks Terry. I’ve come here to get eggs.
The eggs are in the refrigerated section, in the back. It turns out that some of the containers only contain six eggs, and they’re only a little more than half the price of a dozen! There are only three people in the family, and Terry knows that each of them only eats two eggs. And there’s something about cholesterol. It’s in eggs, and since it causes some kind of health problem, people aren’t supposed to have too many eggs.
Terry buys the eggs, some candy, some stickers, and even has some change to bring back. My parents are going to be so proud, she/he thinks. I’ve gotten the eggs, gotten some things for myself, and I didn’t spend all the money.
Let’s leave Terry for now. Perhaps he/she is quite careful on the way home, and all six eggs arrive safely, as does Terry. Perhaps her/his parents are patient, and explain the mistake. Perhaps not. Maybe it’s not even treated as a mistake. It’s even possible that Terry knew, somewhere inside, that he/she was supposed to get twelve eggs, not six, and that candy and stickers were not supposed to be quite so affordable.
I would still trust Terry. But I’d be more careful next time, explaining the mission in more detail. Or maybe I’d get my own eggs. Trust is complicated.

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