See, I was thinking about relationships being analogous to the connections between neurons in the brain. Neurons or brain cells communicate with one another through conversations called synapses. The messages are sent via an arm called an axon. You could think of this like an old fashioned telephone line or wire. These axons are coated with a material best thought of as an insulator, myelin. What this material does is it strengthens the axon, making it more useful for sending signals between the two neurons. The more two brain cells communicate with one another, the more the brain will coat the telephone line with myelin. It sees this connection as valuable and worth strengthening, speeding up, and reinforcing.
As I thought about neurons communicating via this thread of an axon, I imagined two people’s relationship growing stronger via trust. At the outset there is an initial contact, but then with common interests and shared experiences the connection grows stronger. If the two people were to depend on one another, they would need to talk more. This might make getting in touch with one another through various means necessary. In other words you speed up the way you can contact one another. You are texting, instead of emailing.
While you and the person you are building this relationship with forge an increasingly strong, resilient, efficient means of communication, the two of you insulate the bonds between you. This happens a hundred ways, and it causes you to feel more safe around the person, because they know where you are coming from. You feel like they understand your feelings. They are less likely than a stranger to inadvertently do or say something that could hurt you.
In addition to safety, this relational myelin speeds up communication. Something as tiny, fast, and simple as “a look” can say a lot–and fast! A tiny touch might tell you tons without any words.
Tom Murray attributes the success of collaboration, leadership, transformation, and even progress to the “speed of trust” (2019). With the popular warning of trust being easily broken, after taking so long to make, I’ve been guilty of thinking of it as a Ming Vase. The tiniest slip up could shatter the whole thing. Murray does not suggest that trust is anything like this, but it is what I have imagined for years; A once and done breaking of trust.
Rather, Murray’s idea of trust affecting speed got me thinking about it building and maintaining a highway of information. More than just pavement, trust is both the work of building the road, and the process of maintaining the smooth surface that lends to the speedy communication needed for all of the positive benefits Murray suggested educators would reap.
In this model, the road of trust takes a lot of work and investment, and an earthquake could completely devastate it, but if built well, it would withstand many travesties. A trust crew could clean up a crash in the morning, so that the afternoon rush hours doesn’t even know it happened!
Before we get too excited about our trust highway, you should know that there are some pains in making it. If you want a really fast thoroughfare, it needs to be straight and level. Hills and sharp turns will slow down transportation. Believe it or not, there is something even more troubling than blasting or tunneling through mountains and building bridges over valleys. While that will be a lot of work, you first have to come up with the land to make your highway.
In the Philadelphia area there is a highway affectionately termed “The Blue Route”. I haven’t heard it called this as much lately, but when I was in college, that was its only name. Nowadays, it is simply the southern part of the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike; the vertical highway (476) that runs South to North. James Wyatt (2016) tells the colorful history of this helpful highway. Any understanding of city traffic will point to the absolute necessity of quick transportation around the outskirts of town. The idea for The Blue Route was born in the 1920’s. There were a few routes that were mapped out, and all of them had to navigate around iconic properties and places. Each had a different color. The one that was finally decided to build was the color blue.
Here’s the thing. Many people and businesses were moving to the Philadelphia suburbs (Wyatt, 2016). This meant that a means of quick transportation was increasingly needed for decongesting local roadways. But, it also meant that property value rose significantly. In order to build this highway, private citizens would have to give up their property. It isn’t difficult to imagine that no one wanted to do that. There is a law that the government can use to seize property from private citizens for public use (Find Law, n.d.). It is called eminent domain. Citizens get compensated for the land that is taken from them. The property owners and townships that The Blue Route was to cut through protested and held up construction for nearly thirty years!
Trust requires letting go of things. When we are building superhighways of speedy trust between ourselves and others, it will be necessary, albeit painful, to give up the rights of security and privacy. When you trust someone, you are making yourself publicly available.
Once this happens, you then have blasting, borrowing, and bridging to construct to make your highway of trust straight, smooth, and level. Returning to my initial concept of myelin and axons, each trustworthy action sheathes your line of communication with more insulation that makes it that much stronger and faster is like laying final coats of asphalt, erecting guard rails, and providing express lanes on a trust highway.
In conclusion, I propose we view trust as something to build upon, in order to speed communication, help, and support. Tom Murray calls trust an “unwavering thread of classroom culture” (2019). That phrase is what first got me thinking about axons, which then turned into superhighways. He warns us to take care of ourselves so that we can effectively trust others. Perhaps we ARE the highways, and our relationships with others are the exit ramps where traffic comes and goes…
How do you view trust? I would love to hear from you in the comments.