There are many examples in nature that we upright mammals ought to pay attention too. The other day Jan shared the story she called The Eaglets and the Broken Glass. It seems that, like most animal parents, mother eagles do an awesome job hatching their young, seeking out food for them, keeping them warm and protecting them in the nest. However, the day soon arrives when it is literally time for the eaglets to leave the nest. Eaglet-nature, being what it is, can resist this critical developmental stage and attempt to remain in the comforts of the nest. Mother eagle nature, also being what it is, has a plan for this resistance. When the nest becomes too comfortable and life too easy, mother eagle finds sharp sticks, pine needles, perhaps shards of glass or metal and other items in the environment that she adds to the nest, making it undeniably more uncomfortable. Mother eagle knows this is tough love but that it is best for all. This discomfort serves as a stimulus for the young eaglet to do what it needs to do; leave the safety and security of the nest and step off the edge that first time.
Recently I had two confluences of life visit me that were significant. Six weeks ago today I had open-heart surgery to repair a hole in my heart that, unknown to me, had existed since birth. Two weeks ago I was fired, the first time that has happened since I was fourteen years old and an aspiring bus-boy at a local hotel coffee shop! Both incidents, occurring so closely together gave me pause.
The open-heart surgery caught me completely by surprise. As with many men my age with whom I have spoken, I was dealing with an atrial fibrillation issue that I had ignored for several years until I agreed to see a cardiologist. I figured my A-Fib could be treated with medication and I was not particularly worried because I have been blessed with excellent health and had always enjoyed an active lifestyle. When I was told they had discovered the nickel-sized hole and it would require surgery, I immediately scoffed but instantly realized that the doctor didn’t know me well enough to tease me. I went from scoff to shock in record time! Shocked yes, but almost immediately grateful that it could be repaired. Because of skillful medical personnel and praying friends and family, everything was successful and I am doing well.
The firing also caught me completely by surprise. Ok, firing is probably too strong a word but it makes for a better story. I was working as a mentor/tutor at our local university for student-athletes who needed a little extra moral support, encouragement and academic assistance. For a dozen or so, I was surrogate grandpa! I received minimal pay for the past two years but found it the most meaningful and awe-inspiring opportunity ever! This fall, due to my surgically-impacted schedule, I was serving as a volunteer. So when Jan, who was being compensated for her time, and I were called to the director’s office—reliving that I was 12 years old again going to see the principal—we were stunned to hear the director’s unimaginative explanation that they were “moving in a different direction.”
Here’s an interesting thing to do; count all the jobs you have held and were either paid for or expected to do because it was part of your family chores. I can document a few more than thirty; starting at age seven driving the tractor during hay baling season, to paper routes to driving a lumber truck to janitor to selling men’s suits to school administrator and consultant. I washed more than my share of pots and pans in college, painted houses and sold Christmas cards door-to-door. I imagine you can click off just as many if not more. The point is that I was accustomed to always having a job, sometimes two or three at a time, and I was accustomed to having good health.
I believe that all work is honorable. I agree whole-heartedly with my wise father-in-law who frequently expresses his belief that “the best self-esteem comes from a job well done!” I’m not saying that I took good health and gainful employment for granted but when both suffered a significant blow, it caught my attention! I’m not convinced that one ever gets to an age when factors so much a part of our identity are dramatically altered, doesn’t motivate us to truly exercise our faith and beliefs or cower, complain and play ain’t-it-awful!
So I guess it’s either try and get comfortable with broken glass or stand on the edge again and take another step!