Saturday, April 1, 2017


"If a dog barks his head off in the forest and there is no human to hear him, is he still a "bad dog?"

I love dogs. I have found dogs can teach us wonderful lessons in love, obedience, gentleness, and on occasion, the not so wonderful traits of stubbornness and senseless barking!!!

Thinking about this cute picture and the idea of a doggie barking in the forest, unheeded, made me think of my life over the past year. .

For various reasons, reasons disturbing to me, including my deep concern over the contentious political situation in my country, the threat of terrorism, the plight of immigrants in America, the continuing warfare, extreme poverty and hunger in a number of countries, and on and on, I realized that amidst all of these problems I have been complaining, arguing, blaming, becoming a noisy combatant like that bad doggie barking in a forest where there is no one to hear or care. I had begun to feel like that “bad dog”. All bark and no solutions! I prayed to be freed from the “barking”.

Recently, as prayer and deep desire often bring, a totally strange and unexpected thought came to me. I didn’t really know what it meant.

It was: Do I Give Up? Give In? Or Give? 

Here’s some background. My wife and I volunteer at a weekly “Food Pantry” in a nearby community and at two “Free Meal” venues close to our town in eastern Florida. We supply canned goods, vegetables, meat, bread products and other food items supplied by generous grocery stores and restaurants at the Food Pantry. Then, we feed hot meals to the hungry, homeless, downtrodden, poor, unemployed and other sad cases at the Free Meal locations. 

As I have served there and talked to some of the wonderful folks passing through the line,
Hungry People Grateful for A Hot Meal
learning their names and finding out a little about their lives, I found we could almost see three categories, the three categories that had come to my thought earlier! Although seemingly totally unrelated to my personal struggle with the complaining, criticizing and barking in the forest, it started to become clear. 

Given Up, Given In and Givers.

Some of our “clients” seem to have “Given Up.” Their blank, expressionless faces reflect defeat and sadness, they don’t seem to have any fight left in them. These men and women of different ages, races and nationalities shuffle along as if life were such a disappointment. Some may have drug addiction, no employment, no prospects, no inspiration, no families, no smiles. They do often “light up” as we talk and as they feel the respect that we have for them. I have found that sometimes the lack of being loved is a more acute problem than their lack of food. Perhaps they don’t get much respect in their daily lives.

Others seem to have “Given In”. They appear to be accepting the idea that they are supposed to be in this somewhat dismal state, that they almost deserve to be homeless, or helpless. They are somewhat more open than the “Given Up” folks and we converse more, but most apparently don’t see much of a future and appear to be resigned to their situation as being normal for them.

But then there are “Givers”. Those of us who are Volunteering to prepare and serve the Daily Hot Lunch on our appointed days or distribute the food each week at the Food Pantry are now joined by some of those who actually receive food and meals but want to Give as well as receive. These people, apparently nearly Given Up or Given In when we first joined the ranks of the volunteers are now busily setting up tables, unloading food donations and getting prepared for when the rest of the people come to pick up food for their families.

What a delight it is to see them going from the state of receiving to active giving. I’m sure their financial situation may not be much different than it was earlier but they have responded to the love and care of the Volunteer Group and they are now Givers!

Interesting to me is that these wonderful folks are more outgoing, happy and seem to glow from their own efforts to Give. They jump at the opportunity to help in any way that they can, serving in the line, washing pots and pans, cleaning tables, setting up tables and anything needed. They may not have food to give but they have the willingness to give what they have. In their current state of need, they don’t fume or fuss but accept gratefully the good that is coming their way.

And, the active Giving by these dear ones has helped me see the way to get out of the forest of concern and disappointment with the current world situation, to do less complaining, and to do more listening, praying and expressing more gratitude... and more Giving.

Oh, it was very easy for me to get distracted, to be dragged down by a sense of injustice, riled up and barking my head off like the little puppy. But, the Great Physician, Jesus of Nazareth demonstrated every day what living according to his teaching involves.

He was a GIVER.

He said: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

He certainly didn’t Give Up or Give In. He faced life’s challenges, and there were plenty for him, he overcame by Giving.

He didn’t GIVE as the world viewed Giving. While he did do some great “Food Pantry” and “Food Kitchen” things like Feeding the Multitudes and getting tax money from the mouth of a fish, his giving was sharing the key to eternal life. He fed the world with wisdom. He shared his wisdom in the form of the Beatitudes and simple parables describing the way in which we should live and conduct ourselves. He counseled, taught and healed.

He didn’t complain about taxes.

His advice in politics was Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.

His gentle counsel included no senseless human arguments, distress, disappointment or the equivalent of  “barking in the forest”.

When confronted by hate or threats, He remained
calm and composed. In one instance, when he was teaching, many of the listeners became upset at him. According to the Bible, they: “rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them, went his way.”
(Luke 4:29-30)

As a lasting reminder he told his disciples, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father."
(John 14:12)

So, with all due love and respect for my little doggie friend in the picture, I thank him for the Lesson Learned and hope to set a good example for him.

No more senseless barking. We have work to do.

Good Doggie


Barry Chambers said...

Thanks for this illuminating story, Pat.

Unfortunately, as humans we tend to want to "fix" things immediately only to find later that we didn't use the right tools for whatever reason. So, what we fixed becomes undone. Not the outcome we were so righteously seeking.

As we have come to find, prayer and contemplation tends to order our steps because we are being lead and not pushed. Nor are we plunging headlong into where or what we don't know. The people you are feeding and the results you see are a direct manifestation of this.

Continued blessings as you heed the call, while inspiring many of us to heed it.


Patrick Collins said...

Thanks Barry, my dear friend. And thanks for all that you are doing to help and heal those in need!! Pat

Martha B said...

How light hearted and clear. I have just brought my bad doggies in for waking neighbors as they explore on their morning romp in the Maine woods.. and I was being all resigned to either suffering thru the news or deciding to give up.. Now I see a different ray of light.. I will go be a real giver.. God loves a cheerful giver because the cheerfulness is really gratitude for His care( as seen in your volunteers care for other humans).
Thank you Patrick for a practical way to refocus in today's world. said...

Beautiful! You are letting your light shine, and that is inspiring! :) Thank you!

Guines Wiley-NIeves said...

Not sure of the moment i made was posted. So, here it goes again. Thanks for your article and example of kindness and good Christian deeds. God bless

Patrick Collins said...

Thanks Guines!!!!!!I appreciate your kind remarks!! Pat