If we could talk to the animals

This Shabbat encouragement, in large part, was written several years ago. I found the message timely given so many I know with plates overflowing with challenges, that a reminder about the importance of gratitude is always welcome. When we are dealing with unusual challenges, it’s easy to forget to be grateful for what we have been given. Our RV is in the shop for weeks with a large bill to anticipate, not to mention our plans to leave for Florida have been significantly delayed. How grateful that I can stay longer in New England and spend time with my sister as she and her family move to a new home and could use some extra hands for packing and unpacking. So much to pack and unpack!! How grateful for so much plenty for my sister. How grateful Sid and I have a part-time home with her which allows us to attend Ruach regularly (after COVID settles down) since we live in Maine. So grateful Sid’s and my home is so small – less room for stuff! Too busy at work right now. So grateful there is work to do! Good to remind myself that this is just a season. Thankful I can work remotely. Cannot get off the phone with friends and family! What a wonderful feeling to be so loved.

Today on my jog a small chipmunk darted across my path. He looked so intent on making it across the road, probably a survival instinct at work knowing that the faster he is out of view the safer he is from predators. He didn’t know he had nothing to fear from me, but his assumption most likely when in the open was to fear, so the faster he got across the road, the safer. After all, it was just a couple weeks ago that I shared the sadder sight of the opossum that had been struck by a car and did not cross fast enough. In both cases, the animal was darting across an open area, not knowing if what they would encounter was harmless, as I, or deadly, as the motor vehicle that killed the opossum.

So why would the chipmunk or opossum be crossing a road in the first place? Why DID the chicken cross the road? What was so special about the other side? The question reminds me of my daily walks on the beach with my pup Sofia. I carry two sticks. I throw one and she goes after it. As I get near to that one, I throw the second stick, so she drops the first to chase the one just thrown. We continue this mindless game most of the way back. There’s nothing special about one stick over the other, just that there’s a new one being thrown, so she drops the one she has and so the game continues. She exhibits the classic story of the dog with a bone in its mouth who sees its reflection in the pond, then drops the bone to get the one he sees his reflection has, and thus, loses the bone altogether as it falls into the water.

Perhaps the chipmunk or opossum wanted the greener grass on the other side of the road. Sofia always wants the next stick. How similar we can be as we covet what we don’t have. And like the sad opossum, often we, too, can succumb to danger or misfortune if not careful in this quest for our lack of gratitude does not always occur without negative consequences. We are often not as fortunate as the chipmunk when making decisions fueled by fear, indecisiveness, or lack of appreciation for what we have been given.

How often do we run from one bad relationship into another? Or leave a friendship for another rather than nurturing the one we have? Sometimes we are dissatisfied in our job and, like the opossum who gets struck by the car, we get a worse one. Or like the chipmunk, we’re just running, with the specter of feeling like it’s a bad job just because we don’t appreciate what we have. Like the chipmunk, it’s just a feeling of angst, and for no good reason. We quit on people and opportunities and, like the dog looking in the pond at its own reflection, we lose it all.

Perhaps this week we can be more like the carefree horses I admire galloping effortlessly on the beach, mane to the wind, in rhythm with the sea and the sun, in synch with creation, one foot in front of the other effortlessly, handled by their riders who guide them safely, as our Abba does for us. As we live lives of gratitude for what we have, we may seek new opportunities but not by running mindlessly, or fearfully, from something. Rather, may our days be filled with smooth transitions, guided by our Abba, safely carrying us through life’s changes, as well as fortifying us in those situations which need more of Him. May we be thankful for what we have been given, and be ready to be carried by the Ruach for what lies ahead.

Shabbat shalom.

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