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Cassie Sollars - Feeding the wolves: Learning lessons in life and politics

Those of us who peruse Facebook on a more-than-once-daily basis see all kind of mundane philosophical quotes, pithy remarks, professorial contentions and treacly “if-you-love-your-son-daughter-cat-dog-repost-this” requests.

This week, I reread the lesson an old Cherokee taught his grandson, one used in parenting classes, sermons and all manner of teaching opportunities. While certainly not the epiphany it once might have been, it’s worth revisiting.

The old Cherokee says,

“My son, there’s a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, jealousy, resentment, inferiority, lies and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness and truth.”

The boy thought about it and asked: “Grandfather, which wolf wins?”

The old man quietly replies: “The one you feed.”

Which wolf are you feeding? Or perhaps more aptly, where are you getting the food: from the Aisle of Peace and Love, or the Bile of Discontent?

We have three generations in our house these days, and without question, it is enriching and wonderful, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Of course, it’s challenging to find time for solitude and introspection, but we all do our best to give each other the space we need.

My 96-year-old father-in-law moved in with us a couple months ago. Paw has had an interesting and full life, from a long and staid banking career, to avocations that included scaling redwood trees well into his 70s. Forty years ago, he built his own house deep in a redwood canyon along the California coast north of Santa Cruz. He’s still sharp as a tack but now is physically frail. Even though he can no longer do things he once did, he still plays a few holes of golf several times a week with my husband.

My middle son (whose infectious laugh alone can lighten my mood in an instant) is staying with us for a while, too, during a transition in his own life. It’s a motley crew complete with our individual idiosyncrasies as well as our love for one another.

So, with that backdrop:

I’ve been putting in long days recently and, one evening this week, I arrived home from work to the hustle and bustle of a full kitchen, feeling exhausted and certainly not in the best of moods. Usually we all make our own meals since I’m on a special diet, husband Randy and son Sam make whatever they feel like eating, and Paw sticks to his own unique concoctions.

Cranky, hungry and pouting, I whined about not having anything in the house I could eat. I ignored my husband’s attempts to cheer me up in his own silly and endearing way (all while he was eating his awesome homemade macaroni and cheese, I might add). I grumbled about my workload, all the work that was yet undone, no time or place to relax — oh, woe is me. Frustration had turned to resentment, and all of a sudden I was feeding the Evil Wolf.

In hindsight, my reaction was ridiculously selfish. Though it lasted maybe 30 or 45 seconds, it was enough to temporarily color the kitchen air quite dark. I’d momentarily lost sight of the many gifts in my life and allowed transitory, minor discomforts to alter my feelings and reactions. It certainly wasn’t a sin of major proportion, but it was a reminder that we are fallible humans.

Taken to the next level, this microcosm of family dynamic illustrates how our lives can be positively and negatively affected by both internal and external stimuli, and whether those stimuli are real or perceived.

Our community is like a family in a way. We don’t live together in the same house, and there isn’t the familial bond of love, but we depend on each other for support in many other ways.

Whether we’re families or businesses, we pay taxes so our children can receive an education and we can feel safe and protected. We donate our time and money to the causes we believe in, and we volunteer in our churches and schools and service clubs.

Some of us are on the receiving end of those gifts of time and service, sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently. The individuals and families who find themselves in need are worthy of the same respect as those who are able to give the support.

But what happens when it’s not all goodness and light? What if the individual our community helped didn’t really need those services? What if a local business we supported took advantage of our goodwill?

My family did nothing wrong the evening of my Evil Wolf meltdown, but what if my feelings of resentment were truly justified? Would I have been charitable in my reaction?

How we work through the very real challenges in our country depends on which diet we choose. It’s a critical question in the dynamic of family, community and nation.

 Viewpoints editor Cassie Sollars can be reached at csollars@newsregister.com.

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