It saved almost 10 minutes in our walk to school. But this short-cut through our neighbor’s pasture field had a potential snag – we had to cross through a barbed-wire fence. My two older brothers were skilled at pulling the barbed strands apart for an unhooked passage. Their zipping right through heightened my anxiety, prompting a most sincere daily going-to-school prayer. – “God help me”; then after passage, “Thank you God”. Even if snagged, I uttered that thank-you prayer, after laying down my books and lunch pail, to free myself from the snag of that sharp steel barb.

Rain or shine we made that one-mile trek to school, such an easy walk compared to many who had over twice as far to walk. Buckled boots were the necessary footwear in those days, with a pair aligned on the floor beneath every coat hanging in the hallway of our one room schoolhouse.

Looking back, I am so grateful for those barbs which developed in me the habit of calling on God as I confront the inevitable “barbs of daily life”. Every morning and then every afternoon those unavoidable barbs were in my path. Such barbs confront every one of us every day; even though we all keep trying to eliminate as many as possible.

There is something childish, make-believe and unrealistic in thinking we can achieve an earthly utopia. Pain, disappointment and drudgery are experienced by every human being regardless of how healthy, wealthy and wise.

What an irony is found in our America – the country with the highest living standard in the world, yet with the highest incidence of drug use and suicide along with a staggeringly high number of homeless. Creating mentally the goal of a painless (barbless) life is a sure formula for stress and disappointment. The major American disappointments today are: 1) the offensive limitations of all humans and 2) the never adequate supply of money.

These are man-made barbs coming from rejecting this world as it is; like condemning the Dalmatian dog for its spots.

With prayers for help and for thanksgiving may we carefully and joyfully handle the inevitable barbs in our daily lives.

The Rev. John Burkhart Ph.D, is a retired Episcopal priest and retired professor of psychology. Contact him at jandmburkhart@yahoo.com.

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