He was trying his best to reach the last few boxes of Crunch ‘n Munch on the store shelves. I was checking off items on my list and heard him jumping. I turned around and asked the boy; “You got it?” He responded in the affirmative as he grabbed one and took it down. Another second and he was jumping again. I was about to leave when a meek voice rang in my ears; “Can you help me?” “Sure,’ I replied, walked over, grabbed the next to the last box and handed it to him. ‘Do you want the other one?'” He shook his head “no” and then ran out of sight. I smiled and hoped he enjoyed his snack.
I reflected on the young boy’s attempt to attain what was out of reach and how easy it was for me to go over, grab it and hand it to him. I thought about how some things are easy for some and harder for others. What might take all the strength one has to barely, perhaps never, accomplish a difficult task, others can do effortlessly. At first glance, it might not seem fair but I think it highlights our need for each other. We are made to work together, to be the strength to another’s weakness, to give courage when one is about to give up, to be their legs to help them stand, their hands to grab or let go, to connect when all else seems distant and unattainable. Of course, it works the other way when we are in need as well. Only together can we fully live and accomplish all we were meant to be.
Deep Purple –
This morning I turned on the water for all the outside faucets in a friend’s yard. As I waited for the water to reach the spigots I heard the unmistakable sound of gushing water. This is not what you want to hear after turning the water on for the first time since winter. Using my ears I could tell it was a pipe running under the deck. I loosened some sideboards which allowed me to see under the deck and sure enough, there was a busted PVC elbow that connected two pipes. Sigh. I was able to find all the pieces I needed without going to the hardware store and began sawing, drying, applying a deep purple primer and putting the new fittings together. I turned on the water for a quick test and it went to the outside spigots and then turned it off to apply some cement putty and ensure it won’t, hopefully, crack, bust, leak, at least for the summer.
As I squirmed and worked under the deck I thought about how all of us at one time or another, one season or another, end up being dry because our source has been diverted. What’s required is listening, heeding, discovering where the leak is so that it can be fixed. It’s often not an easy job but a necessary one.
This morning, driving to a Father/Child reading event I was rounding a curve when out of nowhere came a big white dog, barking and headed straight for the truck. I didn’t have much time to react when at the last second it decided to turn back. My heart went into my stomach and as I looked in the rearview mirror the dog made its way back to the bush it was hiding behind to wait for its next victim. It was frightening to have this huge canine all of a sudden appear on what should have been an easy drive to a county library.
After my heart and stomach settled I thought about the dog and the fright it gave me. The fear had subsided and I wondered where its owner was, why the dog was allowed to play this dangerous game when, in a collision, the vehicle almost always wins?
I don’t like being afraid. Fear is unsettling and I’d prefer to live life without it. However, I admit that life can be a lot like the, almost, run in with the dog today. We navigate the road of life the best we know how hoping to reach our destination. When, out of nowhere, something happens which makes us afraid. It may be a brush with death, a lingering sickness, a mental health issue, a financial crisis, a danger or challenge to friends and family. In these moments we become afraid. Our goal is no longer reaching our destination but getting through each next moment. Everything slows down and our attention becomes solely on the fear.
In one sense it’s helpful our vision is singularly focused. It helps us concentrate on what’s in our way and how to avoid it or fight it. However, if we are not careful the thing which makes us afraid becomes the only thing we see and our vision to all the beauty and wonder of life is obscured. Balancing being fearful and mindful is tricky but is the only way we make sure we don’t spend our lives afraid to live.
My Siberian Husky, Trooper, is a nut. He’s always in a hurry to go somewhere, fast! He feels left out if you leave him inside while you do a task outside. He wants to be in on everything I do, tagging along, “supervising.” He’s especially not fond of being chained up when I use the riding mower to cut the lawn.
The reason I place him on the chain out-of-the-way is that he wants to be near me. His desire for closeness results in him being in front, on the side and behind the mower. Its dangerous and so he’s put in a safe place until I finish. However, he doesn’t understand the reason so he expresses his displeasure by pulling the chain as far as it will go and then standing on his hind legs and howls, loudly! If you’ve never heard a Husky howl, click here for a few YouTube videos of Huskies getting their howl on! (https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=husky%20yelling) I can hear his protestations over the lawn mower and ear plugs. In spite of my empathy for his plight I know the reason he’s there and, until the proper time, his screaming doesn’t dissuade my resolution.
Wisdom teaches us that limits and boundaries in life are necessary. There are times when we want to go further, harder, reach the summits of our dreams and desire yet something seems to hold us back from achieving what we so desperately want. We complain, scream, cite unfairness and simply don’t understand why we can’t have everything. Perhaps we can’t see the whole picture. Maybe there’s a danger we can’t see. Possibly acquiring our highest aspiration would lead us down a path which would threaten us and all we hold dear.
A friend asked me today why we suffer so much at the hands of those we love. When I asked him to clarify he said; “When we need others to love us more, listen more, help us more and yet they always seem to fall short of what we’re desperately seeking.”
I understood what he was asking but I gently told him that he needed to ask a different question. “Why do you continue craving what another cannot, or will not, give?”
Wisdom tells us that mental and emotional suffering comes from the gap between what we desire and what is reality. Too often we want other people, situations, life, to meet our expectations. When this fails to happen, and it always does, we suffer pain, rejection, dismay and disappointment. We want our loved ones to be more supportive, our jobs to be more fulfilling, our purposes to be clearer and when these desires aren’t met we blame the other, whoever or whatever that may be.
True acceptance comes from receiving what life offers and being at peace with it. It is to cease demanding others rise to meet our dictates and loving them for who they are and what they can presently give. It is to stop fighting, grasping for what is not available and allow the blessings of now to rest upon our open hands before slipping through our fingers.
When life is spent trying to reach across the gap for that which is not attainable eventually we lose our balance and fall into suffering and despair.