Saturday, November 3, 2012

Lesson from Lucy……

Now some folks are really afraid of dogs. They may carry around a mental image of sharp teeth, sneering face and loud barking. This view is spread abroad, mainly by people who are afraid of dogs.
But my view of dogs is completely different. They are, as has been said, “man’s best friend”, and serve as companions, faithful sidekicks, bringers of joy and laughter with their cute antics. Many dogs provide a protecting, guarding presence when danger lurks, often are rescuers from fire and smoke and sometimes the first responder when someone is in need. 

When my wife and I were first married she was afraid of dogs. When she was young her family had a large dog and Gail felt very intimidated, maybe having even suffered a tongue lashing from this beast. Unknown to her, a dog giving you a lot of tongue licks is the highest compliment they can offer, and rarely painful.

Some years back when we moved to the beautiful mountains near Blue Ridge, Georgia and bought our little Hilltop Farm, I could only dream of having a dog. There was no probability of us having one of those monsters anywhere near because of her fear.

But then, one day, one glorious day, with just a glimmer of hope, one moment of possible answered prayer, I saw a small face peeking out of the woods. It was a little brown face sporting huge ears that look like radar antennae. It was a dog.

This little girl was apparently a young Corgi, an abandoned dog, living off of small game and creek water. Even after she saw me watching her she continued to peek out from the trees, then, suddenly she disappeared. For a few weeks after that I would catch sight of her, first here, then over there, elusive, usually peeking out from the cover of some brush or trees, obviously shy but curious. I just wanted to go down and hug that sweet creature but she kept her distance.

After some time she came out of the woods more frequently. She came closer each time but maintained a safe distance. Then one day when my oldest daughter was visiting, the dog came up and let Melanie pet her. It was ironic that I, who really wanted the dog to come to me, was probably the last one to get to pet her. But I do confess that, with unrealistic high hopes but an ever optimistic salesman's outlook, I had already named her Lucy!

As time worked its magic and eased Lucy's fear and shyness I was finally able to get her up onto the front porch and even into the house. Then, Gail agreed to touch her, to gently rest her hand on the dog’s head. Gail was very tentative, still harboring fear of that little dog, but she did it, AND IT WAS PAINLESS, and she smiled.

Then, for the next step, the crucial test, Gail cautiously held out a small cookie. My little angel, (the dog, not the wife!!) graciously accepted it. With a touch as gentle as I assume the Queen of England would use selecting a scone from a silver platter, Lucy ever so prim and well mannered for a homeless girl, gently took the snack in her mouth, with a motion like a floating feather. Good Girl!! 

Lucy, Lucky , Gail and Pat - Christmas Photo
My wife’s fear was almost completely eliminated by that simple act of gentle acceptance, and Lucy continued to display that gentle presence. Now the neighbors might tell you of instances where she stood her ground against neighborhood dogs, but to us she was always gentle. 

Gentle Lucy - "Guarding the Nestlings"
The lesson of how that simple experience broke down the barriers, converted Gail’s fear to love, and at the same time earned Lucy a top spot in the household with many more snacks, vacation trips, adoring “oohs and aahs” from our family over the years has been with me ever since. 

I have heard that for the most part human emotions can be boiled down to just two, Love and Fear. At the very root of our daily experience, we are either loving or fearing. And the Bible points out that "Perfect love casts out fear."* Here was a living demonstration of that truth, love and gentleness casting out fear.

Maybe dogs are mans’ best friend because of the lessons they teach. Lessons of love certainly, but also of faithfulness, devotion, loyalty, selflessness, forgiveness, and yes, gentleness.

Well over 100 years ago a famous religious leader, Mary Baker Eddy, discoverer and founder of Christian Science, wrote a poem which captures the gentle nature of God’s relationship with His children. The first verse is:

O gentle presence, peace and joy and power; 
O Life divine, that owns each waiting hour; 
Thou Love that guards the nestling's faltering flight! 
Keep Thou my child on upward wing to-night.**

I really have to work on the concept of Gentleness. During my business career, and even most recently during the political debate taking place over the past year in the United States, I have gotten into discussions where harshness, criticism and self justification trumped the gentle nature that belongs to all of us as God’s ideas. In those times, sadly after the fact, I have returned to the healing message of that poem, realizing that I have not reflected that gentleness, that love, peace and joy that is my heritage from the Creator. 

Some folks seem to think that Gentleness is a sign of weakness, but
 I have seen the effects of wear and tear when Gentleness loses out to anger and disrespect.  In raising children I have proved to myself that gentleness, kindness and humility are the most powerful child raising tools there are. 

Another poem that has helped me so much in dealing with situations where my first inclination would be harsh evaluation and reaction, particularly in correcting my children, is: 

Speak gently, it is better far
To rule by love than fear;
Speak gently, let no harsh word mar
The good we may do here.

Speak gently to the erring ones,
They must have toiled in vain;
Perchance unkindness made them so;
O win them back again.

Speak gently, 'tis a little thing,
Dropped in the heart's deep well;
The good, the joy that it may bring,
Eternity shall tell. ***

I can guarantee, based on some years of practice, that this poem will bless both parent and child.

How gentle God is...  How gentle Jesus was…  If we can only continue that spirit of kindness and gentleness that is our TRUE nature as our children grow, as we encounter various people in our daily life, we will uplift them all.  

Our wonderful Lucy left us some months ago. Her beautiful lesson of Gentleness still blesses us. As often experienced on our walks, Lucy would run on ahead of us, stop and look back to make certain we were coming.

I know that she lives still, She just ran on ahead.

* I John 4:18
** Poems ... Mary Baker Eddy
*** Christian Science Hymnal #207


Melissa Hayden said...

Thank you Pat. What a sweet story, one that won't soon be forgotten.

TCWCAC said...

sweet Lucy. still the teacher...

TCWCAC said...

sweet Lucy. still the teacher...

kevin said...

hi dad, This article really hit home with me. I cried because I loved Lucy and never got to say goodbye, and also because after losing Zachery, I know the pain and sense of loss that can come flooding in. I am very sorry for being such a stubborn, pighead during the presidential race. Although we have very different Political stances, you are my dad and I love you very much. I will strive to be more loving and kind, and spend less time trying to be right! :-]