On Feeling Safe

Posted on July 2nd, 2015 by

None of us will come out of our shells if we think someone will hurt us. Or make fun of us. Or demean us. We will grow up becoming more and more protective and wary. It is a natural reaction to say “I’m not letting you in” if we have had people break our trust in the past.

And yet… it is the only way we will ever thrive as humans, to find a place of safety where we can trust.

This past camp, a single mom and son came to TLC. She has been a head volleyball coach at the high school, college, and junior Olympics level, and is a family therapist. She also, like the rest of us, has experienced painful brokenness in her life, going through a divorce in a devastating year.

Her husband physically abused their son and is in supervised visits.

She wrote, with permission to share:

“In the months of February, March and April, my son was having nightmares, trouble at school, thoughts of self harm, and a loss of joy. He has carried such weight on his shoulders that I rarely saw him giggle, or his body free of anxiety and stress.

The gift we received from your generosity was the opportunity for my son to be a kid, free as a bird…for four days. I heard him giggle during the skits in a way our home has missed for too long. I saw his body loose, not riddled with worry – dangling arms at his side and his shoulders relaxed. I felt him sitting leaning on my shoulder during mental training. Ariana captured this in perfect picture form – a boy with joy from his soul all the way through the relaxed grip holding a racquet marked with a smile as big as the one on his face.

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Tonight my son cried as he talked about his dad at bedtime, saying he felt unwanted and unloved. In processing that feeling he then said ‘I felt loved at camp, everyone talked nice to me there.’ I think that statement perfectly describes what he got from attending TLC this week.”

Then, on reflecting on her own experience, she added, “This was my first life experience as a camper and being cared for instead of leading others to care. I felt nurtured, refreshed by the values and culture of the camp. To hear my name at every greeting or encounter with an instructor or staff was a gift I can’t put into words.”

A place of safety and trust. Sports can be a brutal place to try to find it. Coaches yell, parents demand, fans boo. But there is another way. I believe it because I have seen it work too many times at TLC to believe otherwise.

It is in encouragement. Praise. Gentleness. Self deprecating humor. Vulnerability. Faith in the good others bring to the world and to the tennis court. And seeing that we are all in this together.

I hope you have a “safe place” this 4th of July weekend. Our families and friends are counting on us to be that place.

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8 Comments

  1. Neal Hagberg says:

    Thanks, all. TLC has been a place of safety for me for 35 years, and because of that has formed much of who I am, what I’ve been able to do in life, and what I believe.

  2. Penny Greer says:

    Beautiful Neal – Well said! We’ll be singing the chorus from the Serenity Prayer to end our worship soon!
    (As soon as we can figure out the music! You will be given credit. If you need me to pay a royalty, I would be happy to do so. Just let me know!)

  3. Peter Whitis says:

    Very nice, and as a former therapist, I can relate to the often unacknowledged and unmet needs of the therapist who suddenly finds him/herself in a setting of loving and caring and acknowledging. It’s great and TLC brings out the best in everybody.

  4. Lori Wukawitz says:

    Great story–thanks for sharing.

  5. Annette Reynolds says:

    Hello i am enjoying reading this blog. What a wonderful legacy to Steve. He is smiling down knowing his coaches really got his message . Miss all of the camp , My brother passed away few weeks ago and Steves book was very inspirational for me . Thinking of all the talented loving people at TLC that always give 120 percent to the campers Bless all of you and what you do everyday to make someone smile

  6. Karen Mann says:

    Wow, Neal! What a revelation…maybe that is another reason I love camp so much and why I start the summer coming to camp…it is a safe, protecting, nurturing place. Everyone needs a place like that!

  7. Wrennied says:

    Awesome, powerful and so true at all levels. Keep up the good work!

  8. Laurie says:

    Thanks for sharing Neal.