I once got lost at the state fair. I think I was about thirteen at the time. The country music show had just finished, and the crowd surged down from the grandstand and carried me away like driftwood on a swollen river. I thought our family was all being pushed down the same steps and out the same gate.
I was wrong.
Suddenly, I stopped and realized I couldn’t see a familiar face in the rolling mass of humanity around me. People clogged the carnival midway and all the side streets and exits. A crowd so dense I didn’t know how anyone could breathe. Lights flashed from the carnival. Hawkers shouted, people laughed, and the rides continued to whistle, clunk, and grind. Everything felt magnified, and I could not summon the courage to move.
Somewhere in my childhood, my parents must have told me what to do in this situation. I didn’t scream, though I wanted to. And I didn’t just “go with the flow.” It took all my strength to stand still, but I did. I waited. I watched. And I trusted.
After what felt like a few hours, a voice at my side said, “Come on. We’ll go this way.” Leon Thurman wasn’t the voice of God, but he might as well have been. A close family friend and neighbor, he had been sitting with his family near us at the show. He muscled his big farmer self through the first layer of the crowd as I grabbed his shirt tail and held on.
I don’t remember getting back to camp that night. I don’t remember anything else about that trip. But, I remember the voice at my side. And I remember the relief of a familiar face in that unbreachable crowd. I’ve reminded myself of that moment many times in the fifty-some years that have passed.
When the crowd becomes overwhelming – in my thoughts, in my health, in my hope, in my calling – I stand still. I wait and watch and trust. Every single time, I’ve heard the voice. “Come on. We’ll walk this way.”
And, we do.