Sometimes the best way to ease one’s fear is to face it head on. Am I saying throw a person who can’t swim into the deep end of the pool or push a person who is afraid of heights off the bluffs into the water below, or to strap down a person who is afraid of clowns and make them watch the movie "It" over and over? No; although there are some who would say those are all examples tough love and think it is a perfect way to make one overcome fears. I say it’s just plain mean and could cause the person’s phobia to get even worse.
Case in point. My youngest son Henry is afraid of ghosts. I personally don’t believe in them but to him, there’s no doubt they exist. This phobia extends to cemeteries. You can see him tense up when I drive past a graveyard. If he could whistle, he’d whistle past the cemetery every time.
I made the mistake once of driving from downtown McMinnville to USA Gym by way of Depot Bottom. As you know, Riverside Cemetery is down there. He immediately stiffened as we drove past the large graveyard.
“I don’t like this way,” Henry mumbled, turning his head so he wouldn’t have to look at the cemetery.
“Nothing is going to get you,” I told him. “This is just a short cut to the gym.”
Since then, Henry has cautioned me, when I leave our house to go work out, “Dad. Take the long cut,” he says very seriously. “Don’t take the short cut. Take the long cut.”
While it’s very sweet for Henry to look out for daddy by warning me away from the graveyard where he is sure ghosts are waiting to grab me, I really wanted to figure out a way to lay his fears to rest.
That presented itself this past weekend when we went on the Walk with the Mayor early Saturday morning. Mayor Jimmy Haley annually leads the nature walk down the Greenway before the Autumn Street Fair. By the way, if you walk with the mayor, bring your track shoes. Anyone who knows me, knows I walk very fast. I’m six-two and long legged. However, I’m no match for the mayor as he moves at hyper speed.
Anyway, for some reason the mayor decides to lead the walk across Chancery and into Riverside Cemetery. Henry was already nervous walking by the cemetery so imagine the look on his face when he realized we were going into the cemetery.
“I’m not going in there!” Henry declared, standing just outside the gate, looking in.
“It’s okay, little buddy,” I argued. “Look at all of us. We won’t let anything get you.”
Reluctantly, Henry followed us in to the graveyard but made a lap of the cemetery faster than even the mayor. He couldn’t get out fast enough.
“See, Henry,” I said afterwards. “It was pretty in there and nothing got you.”
After thinking for a moment, Henry looks up at me. “Dad,” he began. “When you go work out, always use the long cut.”
Standard reporter Duane Sherrill can be reached at 473-2191.