August 03, 2011

A few drops at a time

The summer months on the west coast of Michigan are breathtaking. The tides that roll onto the shores of Lake Michigan are captivating and invite hours of play, relaxation, and serenity. The whole world could be falling apart, but on the beach shore, nothing else matters. Time holds little meaning as you scan the outer reaches of the water searching for the end of the world, but it is not found. These moments will change you.

While making our pilgrimage to the shores of Michigan this year, my two-year old was playing happily on the beach, creating castles in the sand and then destroying them in the fashion of an overgrown lizard that falls upon on a coastal city. However, after a while, he noticed something missing. Water. Of course, what sand castle is complete without a bit of water?

Eyeing the lake before him, he knew exactly what he must do. He grabbed his pail and swaggered down to the rolling waves of the lake shore. Clearly, he was a man on a mission. He dipped his bucket into the cool water that surrounded his ankles and hoped to emerge with a bucket full of the precious lake.

What he caught instead, at least from his perspective, was a tidal wave that crashed upon him like a tsunami! I quickly grabbed him from the waters and placed him on the sandy beaches, safe from the treacherous and mighty waters. He had learned an important lesson that day. That is, to respect the waters and to respect the power that they harness.

I needed that lesson too. It is important to respect the power that can destroy you, for the foolish and prideful that ignore this power will perish.

It was interesting, however, to watch him the rest of the afternoon. He clearly wanted to fill his bucket with the pure and crystal clear water of the lake. He eyed the lake, and would contemplate what was necessary to achieve his objective. The first few times, he would hold out his bucket to me and ask that I assume the risk for him.

Certainly, this is what parents do. We are, at least in the eyes of our young and sometimes naive children, wiser, stronger, braver, and better equipped to handle these challenges and obstacles. Dutifully, I scooped up the water and returned it to his place of waiting.

After a few buckets though, he realized that he must make another attempt at this on his own. To make another go. To chance it. Surely he could not be defeated by mere water, he must have been thinking to himself. Armed with greater respect and a dose of fear, he grabbed his bucket and cautiously made his way to the water. He bent over, and upon seeing a wave rolling in with speed and determination, he dropped his bucket and ran for the shore screaming in terror!

Another lesson learned, once we are struck by fear, it becomes more difficult for us to finish the mission that is ours to complete. Even when we are surrounded by those that will not let us fall, when the conditions are in our favor, we will constantly recall that fear, and will lose those precious moments when we can make our move.

Finally, he devised a strategy for filling his bucket. I thought this was creative, although not terribly efficient or effective. However, I know adults that are less creative and will give up more easily than he will! His strategy was to get just close enough to the shores where the water would rest for a few fractions of a second just after the waves crashed on them. There he would wait in anticipation. When the water arrived, he would grab his shovel, scoop up the water, run to his bucket, and dump the water in.

Of course, by the time that he got back to the bucket, there was nothing left in the shovel but a few drops of water, but this did not stop him. He has determination like a busy ant moving against all constraints. He has his mission, and he knows he must finish it, even if it is but a drop at a time.

If you know what you must do, it is your responsibility to find a way to conquer your fear, even if at the beginning it is only a drop at a time. Perhaps, the war may not be won by a grand victory, but over time with perseverance and patience. Eventually, through small victories, we will learn how to respectfully navigate the waters, and gain greater efficiency.

Be respectful of the power that can lead to your demise, learn from your past failures, be creative, overcome fear, and complete the mission that is yours to complete.

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