Five-Legged Dogs and Getting Small (a Resolution)


Within hours of the event, dozens of fingers hammering on dozens of telegraph keys sent the news of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination to all the major cities across America and Europe. Away from major metropolitan areas the news traveled more slowly. Even a major event on the scope of a presidential assassination  took days and even weeks to arrive in more remote locations.

Today we are bombarded with news and pseudo news almost instantaneously, and we feel slighted if there is not video to accompany it. To say that the news and reporting businesses have changed could be the understatement of the decade. These organizations must now survive on clicks, rather than traditional advertising. There is no time for fact checking, proofreading or in-depth research. To survive in that business, you need to be out there first and be just a little more sensational than your competition. Accuracy be damned, there is another story coming in the next 10 minutes and by tomorrow we will have moved on to another crisis, real or imagined.

Atrocities and absurdities, events from around the globe … things that I have no ability to affect, change or cure. If I allow myself, I can be overwhelmed by stories that are less than news, stories that at their core are nothing more than schoolyard name-calling, except the participants are elected officials, not children.

I can muster up all the righteous indignation and outrage that I want, stew over perceived stupidity, create posts on Facebook and other social media outlets, only to raise my blood pressure and offer no solutions, comfort or aid to anyone over stories that may not even be accurate or based on half-truths. To say that something is this or that does not make it so. To publish it online does not bolster its accuracy, honesty, or credibility.

Abraham Lincoln once asked this question to a group of religious leaders who had come to petition him, “How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg? ” He answered his own question with this response, “Four. Saying that a tail is a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”

Mimsy and I go for a walk on this last day of 2018. Like all Japanese Chin, she has a fine tail, it arches over her back with long feathery plumes.. FoxNews or CNN (not to mention even less reputable news feeds) can call it anything they want, but it is just a tail and Mimsy will never have more than four legs.

Here is my prayer and resolution for this coming year.

Lord, make me small, contract my world. Help me to focus on the people that I can look in the eye or shake their hand, from family members to those checking out my purchases at the grocery store. I will do my best to not overreact to some half-baked story before all the facts are in. I will try to expend my energies not on Putin, U.S. politicians or political correctness absurdities, but on mustering patience with co-workers when I’m not feeling particularly patient. Remind me to offer a smile and a “How’s it going” to a stranger. Give me the wisdom to speak words of encouragement rather than words of outrage, words of healing and not division. Help me to listen to a neighbor’s opinion, rather than offer mine unasked for. Make me small.

Poppy … wishing you a very happy New Year. Let’s get small!


Two Funerals, a Cold Rain and the Great Ledger

I cranked the thermostat up a notch. It was not freezing, the temperature was in the lower 40’s, but after several days of persistent rain, an unwelcome guest, the dampness, was starting to creep in. Our 1890 house has many charms, but energy efficiency is not one of them.

Mimsy and I set out for our final stroll of the night. Neither of us pleased to be out in the weather, but it had to be done. We walked down the sidewalk as the cars traveling up and down Elizabeth Avenue created a spray and swooshing sound unique to tires on wet roads.

Mimsy had her mind on the scents contained within the piles of damp leaves along our route, my mind was on two funerals confronting us this week. We humans have a habit of attributing deaths that happen close to major holidays as somehow more tragic than those happening on a date with nothing more important than Fire Prevention Safety Week on the calendar. It’s not true, but hey, that’s what we humans do.

As Mimsy was busy sniffing, I thought of the two people recently deceased. One, a former co-worker, a woman only slightly older than myself. She had the gift of selfless giving and attending the needs of others before herself.  She will be missed. The other person … well, I feel sorry for the minister asked to give the eulogy.

Funerals seem to come often these days. It goes with the territory, I suppose. As Christians we have the head knowledge that we are not saved by our works or inner goodness, but as the tendrils of dampness find a way to sneak into my house, thoughts of doubt and insecurity sneak into my mind. What have I done?  Have I made a difference? Have I contributed to the great ledger? Will I, in some small fashion, leave the world a better place? Why am I even here?

It’s a safe bet you will never see my portrait on the cover of Time magazine as Man of the Year or read the announcement that Poppy has just won the Nobel Peace Prize, an honor I would kill for. (sorry, couldn’t resist)

There will never be any fanfare over any action of mine, angels will not suddenly appear, singing a heavenly chorus above my head. (this is for the best as it would scare the crap out of Mimsy and myself)

I am as far from a celebrity or public figure as is possible. My sphere of influence is limited to my family, co-workers, neighbors, the check-out people at the grocery store ( because I’m there every other day). If I am to make any sort of difference, to contribute to the great ledger, it is with these people. Fortunately they are just as ordinary, just as flawed as I am.

I would love to be a veritable cornucopia of the fruits of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control … but I am not that guy. My best hope is to let a little of God’s grace show through, maybe just a touch of patience as the lady in front of me at the checkout line slowly and thoroughly searches through her purse to find the pennies needed to pay for her purchase with exact change.