No, I’m not writing about the TV game show of that name which aired in the late 1950’s. I’m writing about a thought that has been occurring to me off and on today. Sometimes life does that, I think — presents us with a “theme of the day.” (And yes, I do realize that it should really be “whom do you trust” since “you” is the subject and “whom” is the object of the sentence. It was just a better lead-in to use the phrase that I chose to use.)
How do you decide who to trust? Are you usually right or usually wrong? I have been facing that issue a lot recently. When I confront an issue a lot, I tend to write about it to clarify it for myself. So I’ll try that with trust.
First of all, I believe that trust is earned over the long haul. It is gained when someone tells you something and that something proves to be true.
But how do you decide to take that first step in faith? To take a person at his/her word? I listen to my “gut.” I know, it sounds like a bit of mumbo-jumbo. But I have learned that my intuition, my instinct is usually right. It’s when I listen to my head that I tend to get into trouble.
So why all the musings on trust? Of course there are the experiences in my own personal life that raise that question. However, this week I have been trying to decide who to trust in my volunteer work situation. How do I know if I can trust women I’ve never met who work with the same organization that I do? How do I know that their assessments of the situations and contacts they have on the reservation are accurate? I know all of these women care as deeply as I do about the welfare of the Lakota people. It isn’t a matter of motivation or commitment. But how do I determine trust when I can’t look someone in the eye and see them speak, answer questions. It makes the choice of whether or not to trust their judgment more difficult.
The second group I need to determine whether to trust or not are the sponsors I assign. This is a bit more difficult because every one comes to me with enthusiasm and the desire to help. Personalities are not the same but sometimes it is possible to tell when a new sponsor will not continue to fulfill the responsibility they undertake. It is more likely that I am completely surprised when someone just decides to stop for some reason. I am especially distressed when I find out from someone on the rez that they just haven’t heard from a sponsor in months. I think the one that bothered me the most was the one who emailed me to inform me she was unable to continue; when I asked if she wanted me to inform the rez contact or whether she planned to, she said she would do it. Then, months later, the sponsored person contacted me concerned by the lack of contact. I had to break the bad news anyway. I might have been able to make it easier if I could have done it when the sponsor first made the decision. So deciding whether or not to trust sponsors is more difficult.
I also have to decide who to trust on the reservation. You may think that odd, but there are some who try to “work the system.” They may exaggerate their needs, list children who are also listed on another family member’s household, fail to note some income or benefit that the household has, etc. Mind you, I understand this to some extent. When one has almost nothing to give one’s family, one will do almost anything to get the things they want and need.
Trust works in two directions. I need the people on the reservation with whom I work to trust me also. I ask them to open up about themselves and their lives. Could you do that with someone who you know only as a disembodied voice at the end of the phone line? Could you trust someone you have never met with your sadness and poverty? Sometimes sponsors expect the person being sponsored to just open up and tell his/her life’s story. I try to caution against that. I try to explain that people will be guarded at first — and that is reasonable.
Still, I have to be careful because sponsors are placing trust in me. They don’t want to be fleeced when they are being generous and caring. They want to know that the people they are helping to support truly need the help. I tend to err on the side of trust. And yes, I have been fooled, but not often.
Trust is one of the reasons I like to visit the reservation. I like to meet people face-to-face when I can. I find my intuition works better that way than when I am 2000 miles away. I usually trust until proven wrong. Gratefully the trust is not often misplaced. Still . . .
It’s tough to know who to trust, isn’t it?