Which wolf will you feed?
My heart hurts this year. The seemingly endless accounts of violence and cruelty toward each other has left this country numb. And this is not OK. So this week for Thanksgiving, I have a great story for you to share with your staff and your family.
This parable is of unknown origin, but is generally attributed to Native Americans. It’s called “The Tale of Two Wolves.”
There once was an old man who saw his grandson sitting by the river, crying. The grandson had been betrayed by a friend and was clearly hurting. The grandfather said to the little boy, “I, too, had my heart broken just like you and what you are feeling is the battle of the two wolves. In each of us lives two wolves. One wolf lives off of hate, anger, revenge and jealousy. The other wolf lives off of love, forgiveness, patience and kindness. These two wolves are always fighting deep within us.”
The little boy looked at him and said, “Which wolf wins?” and the grandfather replied with a twinkle in his eye, “The one you feed.”
We all have the two wolves in us and it is in our control to determine how we interpret and respond to life. We control our response to life. I repeat, we control how we respond. If you look for the bad, you will find it. And if you look for the good, you will find it. Whatever you look for, you will find it.
Today as I drove home during rush hour, I stopped at a red light. To my left was a homeless man holding a sign asking for help. He was skinny and worn. As I watched him walk up and down the lane with his sign, my mind started to guess why he was homeless. Maybe he wasn’t actually homeless. Maybe he was tricking us into giving him money. Maybe he deserved to be homeless because he had done something bad. Or maybe he was just a human being, in pain, in need of help. As I sat there, the wolves fought within me, until my daughter leaned over and said, “Mom, give him some money. He looks hungry.” So I did.
As I rolled down my window, I handed him a few dollars and said, “Please take care of yourself,” to which he replied, “Thank you for your kindness, ma’am.” As I rolled up my window, a crazy thing happened. The pickup truck in front of me had been watching me. The driver smiled at me and then he reached out his window toward the man and handed him a few dollars. Then, as if on cue, I looked in my side mirror and saw the driver directly behind me reach out their hand with money. My daughter then shouted, “I think he needs a Coke!” and she climbed into the back seat and grabbed a soda. So once again, I rolled down my window and handed the man a drink. As I apologized for the generic brand cola, I noticed his face was beaming with gratitude. I felt an unusual sense of goodness flow over me.
As the man turned away from me to drink his soda, the car behind me reached their arm out one more time. This time, a bag of Cheetos dangled from the anonymous hand. I looked at my daughter, whose saucer-size eyes gleamed with pride, and I said, “Your kindness spread.”
Hate and anger spread like wildfire. They are emotions deeply tied to our souls. But love and kindness can spread, too, and they can spread even faster. Why? Because we are social creatures and social creatures look to each to determine how we should act.
If we lead with anger, others will follow. But if we lead with kindness, we teach others how to do the same. And I guarantee you, all the cars that were sitting on Exit 102, watching our displays of kindness, felt a sense of peace and goodness come over them, too.
Happy Thanksgiving, friends, and thank you, Marie, for teaching me to be kind.