Sometimes we need reminders that it’s okay to be human.
Reading through a thrift store find, I was introduced to a story of a zookeeper who trained (and then untrained) an otter.
I was expecting a feel-good story.
And I was not disappointed as I read the beginning and middle with all of the magical moments of taming and training the female otter. How fun! Who wouldn't want a pet otter?!
But one unfortunate encounter with a chimpanzee undid all the training and showed the zookeeper that the otter needed to return to being the wild animal it had been...how sad! It was not the ending I (or the zookeeper) expected.
In It’s a Jungle Out There, Gary Richmond's insights from his experience still stay with me because they offer universal wisdom (remember, any authentic wisdom is universal, whether Christian, Buddhist, Taoist, agnostic, etc.). Here's what he learned that can speak to any of us, whether zookeepers or not:
Have you had an experience where you did all the right things only to have it backfire or lead to an unfortunate outcome?
This doesn’t mean you "didn’t have enough faith" or didn’t do things "right enough," or any of the variety of “shoulds” that may ring in your ears.
Sometimes things go wrong (no matter your best efforts). It’s part of being human.
Everyone has experienced a story with a sad ending. It’s part of being human.
Sometimes the sadness is so great, we want to demonize and dismiss the whole story, labeling it an utter failure. We tend to be too attached to our preferred outcomes (as Buddhists wisely point out). That, too, is human.
But, it is also okay to remember the happy middle and good beginning.
While things did not turn out as he had hoped (& efforted), Richmond was still able to celebrate the fond memories of the process of befriending the otter.
Is there a story of yours that by remembering the happy middle and good beginning may be good for your soul?
Let’s give ourselves permission to be human today, especially when things don’t go as planned (no matter our best efforts).
Kasey is a scarf, ball and club juggling spiritual director just outside of Nashville, TN. Play helps her Type-A, Enneagram 1 personality relax, creating space for poetry and other words to emerge. She also likes playing with theological ideas like perichoresis, and all the ways we're invited into this Triune dance.