Friday, January 11, 2008


There's a story that's told around nighttime campfires after evening meals are finished:

The old Chief speaks to his young boys before they are to be brought into the tribe as men. "Inside me, there are two wolves," he says, "One is viscous, evil and hating. He will rip and destroy anything and everything he can. The other is good, kind and loving, protecting the best he can his family and friends. Each day they battle within me. It is the same with each of you." One of the boys asks, "Grandfather, which wolf will win?" I'll tell you his answer in a moment.

What do you focus on? Do you let the guy who cut you off in traffic ruin your day? Or do you let it be an occasion to practice patience? Do you even sometimes let it be an opportunity to practice your writing skills? What do you do?

Every time you focus on the wrong done to you (sometimes in all innocence, let it be said), you raise your blood pressure, heart rate, and stress. Shifting the focus from the wrong done to possible solutions can help.

Let me tell you what I mean: a short time ago I noticed that people would put their trash out of their car on the ground and drive off -- even when a trash can was near to hand. This would happen in the parking lot of the place I work. I would growl and cuss and mutter: "What's going on with these know-nothing so-and-sos," and generally enter my workplace with a sour attitude that would take me some time to work out. Sometimes I would need the entire day. And, of course I'd see more of the same when I left the building.

One day, it hit me that I was part of the problem.

That very day, I started picking up the stray trash I found in the lot as I made my way into work. Since I park at the far corner, sometimes that was a LOT of trash.

Some of you think I'm crazy for doing this, that it is ultimately utterly pointless to pick up the trash I find. I am making only a very small dent in a very big problem. In that last, you'd be right.

But for the rest, you'd be wrong.

Listen to the good things it did for me: I became a happier person because I felt: a) I left the parking lot a little better than I found it; b) maybe someone would follow my example and help; c) maybe the people leaving the trash might notice and realize it doesn't "just go away" (alright, that's a long shot, I admit it).

That happier person (me) generally isn't as sour as before. I smile more at people. More people smile back (imagine that!). My blood pressure went down a bit (every bit helps). Best part: I could start untying some of the knots I'd gotten myself tied into.

And that was just the first step.

I could go on, but maybe you get the point.

You could list all the reasons I should be grumpy. Believe me, my list is longer than yours. I've read and re-read it several times and more things keep appearing.

I've decided to break the habit of picking nits and adding to the list of grievances. Instead, I want to add to the list of things that make me smile: warm days and cool breezes, a full moon on Christmas Eve, little girl giggles, friendly smiles.

Yeah, I'll backslide. But I'm getting better at keeping my focus where it belongs. Our little girl saying 'Hello' to the moon this evening when we got home heads the "Smile" list today. Simple and sweet. And that list keeps getting longer, too!

By the way, the old chief answered, "The one that you feed."
I try to keep a happy face for our little girl, especially when she thinks it's her fault when I feel bad. I've lived the habit of guilt; she doesn't need to. She already has her loving and giving nature. She doesn't need guilt to do the right thing.

Speaking of doing the right thing,

Yes, you can.

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