Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

Elf on the Shelf December 6, 2013

The stare ahead. That’s what mom calls one of my most favorite moves I use to initiate play. And I suppose it’s pretty accurate whether my play mate has two legs or four. My head and eyes face straight ahead and I don’t make any eye contact. Don’t tell anyone I told you, but I’ve trained both mom and dad play along with me and act out similar behaviors. It’s my creative way of getting them to play chase with me. And it always works.

A Small SmileToday I got to thinking about this stare ahead and what it means for the power of the eyes. They seem to have just as much impact when they’re not looking at the subject as when they are. It reminds me a bit of this thing I’ve heard about lately called the elf on the shelf.

Apparently there is a large family of elves originally from the North Pole who, once adopted into a home, report back to Santa about the behavior of the children who live there. They leave at night to fulfill their mission, and return in a new spot each morning to resume observation duty. It sounds like a mighty important job if you ask me.

Almost as important as the original elf on the shelf. The Creator of watching without looking. The omnipresent and omnipotent “big guy” upstairs in that place called heaven. He is always watching us. And it’s no game for Him. Because (perhaps most importantly) He isn’t just seeing us. He is with us. He sees our good days and bad. He celebrates with us and cries with us. With no words at all, He crafts blessings s from teardrops. But because we can’t feel Him always looking directly at us, it can be easy to forget He’s there.

It’s very different from the stare ahead. And yet it brings me peace. Not only to know I’m always being looked after in every possible way, but in feeling empowered by that knowledge. I’ve always had my reasons for playing the stare ahead game. And while those won’t be changing any time soon, my perspective of my surroundings certainly will. Because just as I know the big guy in that place called heaven is watching over me, I know He would want me to watch over others in my own way very different from that of the elf on the shelf.
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“They might not need me, but they might,” wrote great American poet Emily Dickinson. “I’ll let my head be just in sight; a smile as small as mine might be precisely their necessity.”

 

I’ll Be There July 9, 2013

I’m there to help them wake up in the morning. I’m there to keep them company in the bathroom while they ready for the day. I’m there to (albeit grudgingly) see them off to that place called work. And so it begins. The daily routine many of us canines with working parents adjust to over time. It may seem mundane to those without dogs, but I would argue our job as canine housekeeper is incredibly important.

It reminds me a bit of one of those people conversations that I occasionally overhear. My sensitive senses are finely tuned to human emotion, so I can usually tell something is going on with person one before person two knows to ask what’s wrong. And when person two does ask, I can’t say I condone the way the conversation unfolds. “I’m here for you,” person two says to person one, who is generally comforted by the statement.

Now and AlwaysMy issue is not with the statement itself, but in its aftermath. What does it mean to “be there” for someone anyway? As observers of people, we all know not all of our best intentions come to fruition. We also know that being with a person physically doesn’t always mean you’re with them mentally, emotionally, spiritually or in whatever way they need you in that particular moment. Being “there” sounds to me like a mighty tall emotional promise that shouldn’t really be made if it isn’t sincere.

But I also know being there, sincerely and honestly being there, is also one of the most priceless gifts we can give a person. And sometimes it is actually as easy as sitting with a person in complete silence. Or offering them a hug. Or, in a dog’s life, giving them a big sloppy slobbery (albeit unwelcome) kiss. Or nudging into the tiniest little space on the couch for a cuddle session.

“True friendship isn’t about being there when it’s convenient,” suggested Dutch-born Catholic priest Henri Nouwen, “it’s about being there when it it’s not.” Being there, sincerely and honestly being there, is arguably one of the best things I can think of about being a dog. It’s amongst our reasons for living, and helps define our purpose in life.

And so the days draw to an end. I’m there to greet my people when they return from the place called work. I’m there to make sure we get our playtime after dinner. I’m there to cuddle them to sleep at night. And as I drift to sleep I give thanks for the peace in my heart that tells me now — and always — I’ll be there.

This post is dedicated to my dear friend HuntMode, who shared with me a gem of a video today I’d like to share with you.