From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul

Trust Me

To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.

James Ramsay MacDonald

I wasn’t expecting the feeling of total panic that hit me as I watched my ten-year-old daughter walk alone to the microphone at the front of the stage.

She was running for student body president, which meant that she had to deliver a brief campaign speech during an assembly of the entire school. She was pretty, articulate, charming and poised. I knew she would speak well. What made me nervous was the audience. The principal had ordered that no one could applaud for any candidate until the very end of the program, and the students had reacted to the restriction with boredom and resentment. Several times the principal had returned to issue warnings to those too eager to shout insults at their peers on stage.

I hadn’t panicked when she asked for my help with the speech two weeks before. I told her that if she really, really wanted to win the election, the only way was to make all the kids laugh. To do so, she’d have to do something unexpected. “Trust me,” I told her, “if you follow what I tell you, I guarantee it will go over well and you’ll win.” She had chosen her words carefully and practiced often; yet, in that moment of silence before she began speaking, my heart stopped beating.

What if I was wrong? What if they didn’t laugh at her jokes? What if they ridiculed her attempts at humor and put her down? How could I have violated her trust? I was sure that I had thrown my oldest child to the sharks and that her respect for her father would be lost forever. I knew if she flopped and lost the election, she’d never believe anything I told her again.

“My name is Brittany, and I’m running for president,” she started calmly. “I think you should vote for me because. . . .” She paused and looked around. My hand on the video camera shook with fear as I waited for her to deliver the punch line. She picked up a Tupperware bowl from a bag behind her and put it upside down on her head. She pinched her nose and spoke in a robotic voice. “ . . . I am an alien. I came to your planet to eat your cafeteria food!”

The audience was caught completely off-guard and erupted with glee. It took several seconds before the laughter died down enough for her to go on.

“But don’t take my word for it,” she continued, “ask someone who has the same birthday as me, George Washington.” With that, she turned her back to her classmates and put a gray wig over her hair. By now the crowd was squirming with anticipation. “Oh, my gosh, am I sore!” she shouted in an old man’s voice as she stretched. “I guess that comes from being dead for a couple of hundred years!”

The hall erupted again. I knew her humor had tamed the crowd and that the election would be hers in a landslide.

When she finished her speech, outlining her agenda if elected, screams and shouts of approval filled the air. The children stomped their feet and pounded their fists on the chairs. It was pointless to attempt to contain the applause, and the principal was too amused to try. With every clap and yell, I thought my heart would burst.

I held the camera to my face to hide my tears. I was filled with love and pride for the daughter who had given her father her complete trust—and relieved that I had been worthy of it.

Lanny Zechar

More stories from our partners