One of the most important life lessons Dennise and I have ever learned, we learned from our dog.
The lesson is: “Be the Dog On a Walk.”
We learned this lesson observing our dog, Daisy. And I should describe it by first describe the opposite… “Daisy in the yard…”
When Daisy is in the * side yard,* and sees another dog pass by our front windows, on a leash…
Or, when Daisy in the house, sitting inside the front windows, and sees the same…
She FREAKS OUT.
She jumps up on the windows, causing them to rattle. (She a big dog…) She paws the windows forcefully. She barks in a low, gutteral growl that terrifies anybody who hears it. I mean, it is no joke that she literally *broke* the front window in our old house doing this. (We replaced it with unbreakable plastic…)
Her entire attitude is one of *attack.* You get the sense that if there was no window, or fence, between her and the offending dog, she would race to them and tear out their larynx in one horrendous bite.
When Daisy is on a *walk,* it’s as if she is an entirely different dog. It’s almost like Jekyll and Hyde. Now, the *other* dogs behind the window, rattle the walls and bark terror.
Does Daisy acknowledge them?
Does she look right or look left?
She just keeps on walking.
She’s as cool as a clam.
She knows she’s the dog on the walk. She knows she’s doing what very other dog *wants* to do.
She doesn’t have to bark. She doesn’t have to growl.
She doesn’t even have to look sideways at them. (Although I think sometimes it feels like she tosses them a sideways, Funky Winkerbean glance, that says… “Hey…”)
So, the moral is this. In life, if you are “winning,” if things are going well, if you are feeling the blessing and abundance of life:
“Be the dog on a walk.”
Don’t taunt those who don’t have what you have. Don’t brag about your success. Just cool-y enjoy the walk, enjoy the ride. Because one of the days, the leash will be on the other neck. One of these days, you’ll be the dog, stuck in the yard. No success lasts forever. Nothing you have is guaranteed.
Despite what players says after the championship win, God didn’t specially bless you more than your opponents, or answer *your* prayers while dashing theirs. Sometimes, life just works out. Sometimes there are good times. Sometimes you’re immeasurably blessed. When that happens, don’t rub it in.
Another way to say this, of course, is “Be a good winner.”
I’ve been thinking about this a lot during the Trump Presidency, and how damaging it is to our nation’s moral character to have a leader who is, so often, *not* a good winner. Donald Trump is never content to just “win.” He seems morally compelled to categorize his foes as “losers.” He dualistically divides the world into these binary categories, and nobody (besides him) appears to have a guaranteed a spot among “the winners.”
This is, of course, ridiculous. Most folks I know are kind of laughing at him now. But as President, it’s a moral lesson that others watch. There are *plenty* of people out there, soaking in this lesson about what it means to “win” and what it means to “lose.”
I don’t know why he’s like this. I couldn’t begin to guess, other than perhaps he’s never really dealt with his own pain or loss, or understood just how privileged his life and existence has been.
But he’s not alone.
Social media turns us all into little narcissists, fronting a highly curated “image” (masks) of ourselves as more successful, more beautiful, more accomplished, more happy, than those around us.
Even those of us who *should be* humble servants do this. I’ve seen too many politicians I’ve personally known win elections, and then privately engage in vendettas against their former foes, rather than just let the “win” be the win. I’ve seen too many preachers get the appointment (Church) of a lifetime and then act as if they were smarter, harder working, and more “faithful” than their peers.
To me, the word I most use to describe my life is “lucky.”
Time and time again, I say “I am the luckiest guy in the world.”
Theologically, I’d call it God’s grace. I often feel an overwhelming sense of God’s grace. I know just how privileged I have been, by my birth, by my race and gender, by sheer coincidence and luck sometimes. It causes me to feel even more inspired to help others, to use my privilege to broaden the table, and include the outsider.
This is a hard concept to learn, and we all fail at it from time to time.
About a year ago, we were talking about this life-value with Maria. We said to her, “Do you know what it means to ‘be the dog on a walk?’”
She replied, “You get to poop anywhere you want?”
We all laughed for five minutes.
Look, I know when things go your way, you should rightly be proud. You should rightly want to share good news with others. Don’t stop doing that.
But when you share on social media, when you are rightly proud, remember to look around you. Remember that there are others around you going through a hard time.
The opponent you vanquished? You didn’t physically “kill” them. They will live to fight another day. Maybe they’ll come back and beat you next time, and be inspired to do that because they feel humiliated by you.
(There’s a credible theory that Trump ran for President because of a humiliation he felt at the hands of Obama at the Correspondence Dinner….)
As those who are in the public eye more than most, Dennise and I have come to understand just how many people live on the edge all the time. We see how many folks feel frail, and are just getting by. We’ve personally experienced how our own curated public image can push folks to come after you. (Even as we know that, when they do, they are coming after an image or mask, not a real human being…)
Every waitstaff you lord over can spit in your food.
Every store clerk, or staff at the government window, is dealing something you can’t imagine.
Every “enemy” you vanquish can come at you again.
And, yes, they may do it anyway. But why give them a reason?
Live by the Golden Rule, and treat *all* those like you would wish to be treated.
When you “win,” be more like Mary who “ponders all these things in her heart.”
Jesus reminds us that even the Gentiles love their friends. So, love your enemies too.
That means *during* the “battle” with them, and I think it especially means when you have “won.”
And finally, remember the wisdom of Ecclesiastes, which teaches us that there’s a time for success and a time for failure.
Both will come to you soon enough.
So when things go your way in life, watch what dogs do.
“Be the dog on a walk.”
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