As I was driving, managing traffic and weather from Hillsboro to Vancouver from one interpretation job to another, I was reminded of story today.
It is the story of Pedro, a Mexican farmer, and of his son, Luis, going to market to buy a donkey. They had worked and saved long and hard to buy the donkey that will make their farm life much easier. The donkey will pull a cart and even carry things from one place to the other. Luis was glad to go to the city. He doesn’t often get the chance to leave the busy farm, but Pedro was apprehensive. City folks made him uncomfortable.
They left the farm one sunny morning. Pedro walked quietly along while Luis skipped everywhere looking at everything on the way. They arrived at the market; found and bought the perfect donkey; ate something at the local cantina; and wanting to get back before dark, started their way home.
Very soon a group of city people passing by were mocking them. “Look at these silly country folks. They have a donkey, and they are both walking. How silly!”. Pedro then decided that both he and Luis should ride the donkey. Very soon, another group passed by and looked at them in horror. “Look at these cruel country folks both riding on this poor donkey!” Pedro decided that Luis should ride the donkey while he walked until another group on the other side of the road yelled in disgust . “Look at this ungrateful son letting his father walk while he rides on the donkey!”. Pedro was starting to wonder if you ever please people. He got on the donkey and told Luis to walk until a person accused him of being a cruel father letting his son walk while he rode on the donkey.
It is then that Pedro had the perfect idea. He and Luis got a big pole to which they attached the donkey upside down by its hooves, and carried the donkey to the utter confusion of the city people.
Whether a King, President, Senator, Director, Manager, Officer, or team leader, one thing is certain, ‘We may please some of the people all the time. We may please all of the people some of the time. But we will never please all the people all the time. It seems that even God has that problem. We just have to make the decisions that we feel are the best at the moment and live with the results.
The other week on the news they were talking how the great Barnum and Bailey Circus will not perform anymore. The animal activists having won their case, the circus had to get rid of its elephants which, among other things, eventually led it to bankruptcy. The news were also mentioned Sea World and its killer-whales in Florida.
I don’t know if there was abuse. I have in my mind the romantic idea of the tamer and his close relationship with his animals. Animals are like people, they don’t perform under pressure, stress or abuse, or if they do, they do not do it well or with their heart. It seems that the circus as we knew it has lost its relevance in today’s society. I remember with nostalgia taking my young children to the small circus that used to come to our little town of Estacada. .
The Bible also talks about the proper and humane care of animals. But while it says that a righteous person is one who cares for his animals, it does not have circus animals nor house pets in mind. When it encourages the humane care of animals, it is referring to farm animals. Being knowledgeable of mankind’s potential for selfishness and greed, God in His great wisdom teaches people to not overwork their animals. The Old Testament even says that an ox should be able to eat of the grain while he turns the grinding mill, have a day of rest every week, and a year of rest every seven. But was God only concerned about oxen and donkeys when he made these rules?
The Bible is a book of overarching principles. When it speaks about the ox and donkey of the farm, it tells us how we should care for the lowest employee of the enterprise; the one at the bottom of the totem pole. The principle behind it is that, ‘If we have to care so much for the animal of the farm, how much better care should we give to human help, indentured workers, and even more to our paid employees.’ While the Bible does mention ‘slaves’, which were actually indentured workers, it tells us that they should not sleep on a bed less comfortable than that of their master, neither eat inferior food than that of their employers.
Because of the selfishness of man, people nowadays have created unions to make sure that workers are cared for and not taken advantage of. But an employer who believes in God should not need the check and balance of the unions. He should remember the God who serves him well, and serve others in the same way just for gratitude sake. The children of Israel were to always remember their slavery in Egypt in order to be kind to the stranger and the worker when they arrived in their Promised Land. They were supposed to remember where they came from. Should we?
“If you put out the fire right in the first place, you won't have to jump out the window.” Lieutenant Henry Frederick's (FDNY)
When I heard this phrase on drill night I thought it was too good to pass up. My temptation toward philosophical analogies got the better of me. I had to unwrap this fire fighting strategy in order to take it to a different place, nonetheless as applicable. When I first heard it I asked Ted, who made the presentation, “Can you give me an example of a scenario when you have jump out the window?”
Ted was very wise. While not giving me a 100% strategic dogma, he expounded on the scenario of someone checking the grounds of a fire with much difficulty because of the smoke and flames, which also continued their rapid devouring holocaust. He also made a point that sometimes you do have to do it in order to check for life.
The latter exception aside, the original scenario is a very good idea not only for fire fighting but also for community issues. A few months ago I attended a lecture by Tiger Shmitterndoorf’. But he was talking about the need to extinguish the “fires” in the fire house.
At the time I wrote an article connecting that principle with what happened to Nicole Mittendorff, a 31-year-old Fairfax County firefighter. Virginia State Police officers discovered her body in Shenandoah National Park along with a suicide note. Somehow something happened at the station and the fire, while maybe addressed, was not put out first which caused Nicole to ‘jump out’.
We fight many problems/fires in our lives. In fact, fighting problems/fires is something everybody does, from the people in government to our own family at dinner table. We often try to find the cause of the problem/fire, or even pin the blame on someone, while everything is smokey, hot and confused. While we do that, the problem/fire continues raging in our homes and lives. Maybe this is after all also a good life strategy. If we put out the fire right in the first place, not only we will be able to clearly fix the problem, find the responsible elements, and no-one will have to ‘jump out the window’.
I wonder what it looks like to ‘put out the fire right in the first place, so someone doesn’t have to jump out the window’. It probably looks different every time, but it is a very good advice.
Fear is a strange thing. Like our modern paper currency, it has no power of its own, except that to which we attribute it. Also like our modern currency, it self inflates as it loses value, thus preserving an allure of power. It is like a hot air balloon, very big, but since there is no gold behind it, it is only full of the ‘hot air’ of lies blown into it by its ‘fans’ who believe in it. Like our modern paper currency, fear is mostly blown by the hot air of lies and pretences, but when faced with the truth, like the Wizard of Oz coming from behind the mask of his lying schemes, he is revealed for the powerless little creature that he is. President FDR (who took the American Dollar off the gold standard) is known to have said at his First Inaugural Address: “The only thing to fear, is fear itself.”
When I was a teenager I emigrated to Israel. My parents were not favorable to the idea, but I was able to muster enough teenage cantankerousness to make them realize that their lives would be better off and things would be quieter if I were to go. They were fearful of me going to live in country that was so prone to war and terrorist attacks. For my part, I was like every teenager, ‘Invincible!’
I was watching this week about the people who live in the new settlements East of Jerusalem. They have whole families living there, very close to danger. A recent Israeli poll showed that the people living in these dangerous areas of Jerusalem are less fearful of terrorists than those who live in the more settled areas of Tel-aviv or Haifa. Why? Those who live in these settlement say that they do so out of a sense of cosmic destiny. They know that they are part of a vision that is greater than themselves, and this shines in front of them as a light that dissipates all fears,real or made up.
This is something we could all learn from in these times of uncertainty. We could ask ourselves, “What are we a part of?” Why do we do what we do?” Are we living and dying for a virtuous ideal or are we just existing?” Only the realisation that we are actually part of a grand plan can give us the courage to face the daily battles that life puts in front of us. And whether we know it or not, we are each one of us part of grand plan. Not only we do not know what lies ahead for ourselves, but we do not know what lies ahead for our children, or for the people we help and save every day. The people of East Jerusalem know it, and if they can keep this plan alive for 4,000 years, we can also certainly do so.
If you appreciate these articles, support their upcoming publication in a book called, "REFLECTIONS OF A FIRE CHAPLAIN"