One of my earliest backpacking memories began with night falling quickly in the woods. It seems to go from light to dark almost instantly in the woods, particularly in the late fall. Our backpacking party had just bedded down in our sleeping bags. Out of no where there was a shriek that pierced the cold dark silence.
It was a female voice. The panic grew with each cry for help. Unsure what to do, I threw on a T-shirt and stumbled into the darkness with flashlight in hand. With fear and trembling I moved toward the sound of the screams, unsure what I would find. Was it a bear mauling? An a assault by another person? I felt like I was living in a horror movie. I could now hear banging AND screaming. Armed with flashlight and nothing more this young teenager was prepared to go into battle. The beam of my flashlight landed on what appeared to be a shack and I could tell the noise was coming from that direction. Despite my own fear of what might be attacking I used my deepest and most mature voice as I hollered, “Mam, how can I help you? Mam? With backup right behind me, I hoped my voice would maybe scare off the attacker. And then the most bizarre thing happened…
In a quieted and somewhat annoyed tone I heard her say, “yes, somehow I locked myself in the outhouse. Can you let me out?”
Crisis averted! Upon returning home I was rewarded for my heroism and awarded a Superman T-Shirt by the lady who I rescued. Good natured teasing ensued from all my fellow camping mates, including my mother, who was on the trip. They were all right behind me that night and had keenly observed my crouching as I prepared for a ghastly and frightening scene. It was just someone stuck in an outhouse!
These days when danger is near and I don’t know what to expect, especially in the dark, I still have a tendency to brace for the worst. I think we all do. Fortunately, the handle on the outhouse door was jimmied and it was an easy escape, but you couldn’t tell the captive that her plight was no big deal. It was dark, she was trapped and she needed help, with a capital “P”.
Sometimes the smallest things elicit the greatest reaction from us especially when they strike at our deepest, darkest fears. As we grow and mature it is my prayer that we learn techniques that allow us to breath and stay calm in the midst of the whirlwind. After all it might just be that the latch on the door is stuck.