I read that the Italian cruise ship that ran aground off the coast of Tuscany has shifted dangerously and that rescue attempts may have to be halted. Not yet found is a Minnesota couple, 1963 Saint Mary’s University alumnus Gerald “Jerry” Heil and his wife, Barbara. I imagine they are presumed dead.
This sad story got me thinking about trust, and how much of our lives depend on being able to trust people – not just our spouses, children, friends, bosses, coworkers. Without being able to trust strangers we couldn’t live our lives. The Heils and all the other 4,000 people on the Costa Concordia had to trust that the captain would keep them safe, the crew would know what to do in a disaster, and that the safety equipment was in good working order and readily available.
Bus drivers, taxi drivers, other drivers — we trust they will follow the rules of the road. Restaurant workers — we trust they will serve us not only good food but safe food. When we hire people to work on our homes or businesses, we trust that they will do a professional job. We don’t want that deck to fall off the side of the house when we sit out on it. We don’t want our garage door to fall on our child. We have to trust people in the health care professions, I thought as I sat in the chemotherapy department at Winona Clinic with an IV in my arm delivering the toxins that will kill those cancer cells. I have to trust that I will get the right drugs and that if I have an adverse reaction it will be quickly treated. I have to trust our doctors’ advice and treatments. But we can’t trust blindly. In hospitals and medical facilities all over I see signs reminding patients that they must be their own advocates. It is up to us to educate ourselves and to speak up when things don’t seem right or you are uncomfortable with your treatment or don’t understand what is going on.
What I find strange is that so many of us place our trust in people and things that to careful observers are patently untrustworthy. Thousands of scams still rope in thousands of people. When pastors proclaim from the pulpit (most likely due to the fact that until recently there were two Mormons vying for the GOP presidential nomination) that the Mormon religion (officially The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) does not include a belief in Jesus Christ and is not Christian, some in the congregation believe it, although it is patently false. And of course the Obama citizenship question still roams around, even if in a more desultory fashion.
The Internet has taken over from rabbits and guppies as the megabreeder. Some people are quick to circulate rumors they’ve heard, or even to start a story circulating — either mistaken about their facts, or perhaps maliciously. It’s made the term “urban legend” an entrenched part of our language.
Blogs are infamous for incorrect information, but some people would rather believe “Chatty Kathy” somewhere in the U.K., or a Facebook friend, than in the legitimate information that is available from reliable sources. There is a way to check out rumors before you forward them to your address book. Snopes.com is on top of those rumors, researches them and will tell whether they are true or false. Medical facilities such as Mayo have web sites that will answer practically any question you have. As the old advice columnist used to say, we have to “wake up and smell the coffee.”
For the most part, though, humans can trust each other. Life goes on. We can’t check out everyone, and we can’t avoid bad luck or happenstance. We can still have faith and hope in our lives. We just need to be smart about it.