A Preacher in the snow

It's been a weekend of snow and preachers.  

If you've been watching the news, you know we were blanketed by trillions of the tiny, frozen, crystals that made up the almost 30” of snow that fell Friday and Saturday.  

I didn't mind not being able to get out.  As long as we had power, I could handle being cooped up for a few days.   I made quite a few phone calls for the newspaper, including one to a minister and two to other people associated with his church.  I also wrote, took a writing/time-management webinar, and did some reading -- fiction even, for pleasure (gasp!).

Conversations with the minister, combined with the snowfall, had me thinking of Rev. Haskins again.  He and his wife had a golden retriever they named Preach -- short for Preacher.

One Sunday afternoon, as we were all relaxing in the parsonage’s comfortable family room, Rev. Haskins told us about a set of snowboots he’d bought for Preach and described the way the dog walked in them.  His story -– visual impersonation included -- started us all laughing so hard that it was only a matter of time before he put the boots on the dog to demonstrate.

That poor dog would lift each paw far higher off the carpeted floor than normal, set it down hesitantly, then lift it up again as soon as he could.  I imagined if he could have defied physics, he’d have lifted all four paws off the floor at once if he thought he could have gotten where he wanted to go that way.

Snow boots for dogs are intended to keep their paws from being stung by de-icing salt or getting frostbitten in the ice and snow, but it occurred to me this weekend that something done with the dog's safety in mind just ended up making him walk funny.  The boots weren’t Preach’s idea; the limitations they imposed weren’t his idea, either, and they altered his actions. 

I once had a chance to live in Australia for a year.  I passed it up because I was newly engaged and advice I received at the time said another opportunity at marriage might not come along.  There was no incrimination in that advice; it was simply given based on the way the givers knew their world functioned.  So I stayed home and got married.  (The marriage didn't last but that's not a matter for this post.)

The advice put in front of me had the potential to limit me.  Yet I was the one who picked it up, clasped it tightly in my hands, and accepted it as inevitable.  

How often do we put limits on ourselves, staying in a safe but enclosed world where we don't take risks because they might not turn out well?  What if a talented artist never picks up a paintbrush because she's afraid of being told her finished canvas isn't good enough?  Or a gifted storyteller never hones his craft into the bestselling book that can change readers' perspectives?  This isn't about quitting our jobs.  It's about who we are in our core.  

Do we put snowboots on our own feet, making sure we hobble around in ill-fitting footwear that keeps us safe and secure but never lets us try something new or become the kind of person we want to be?  What choices can we make today to find a better-fitting pair of shoes?