Well, this morning I received a rather nasty surprise when I opened the curtains on the glass doors that we have in our apartment. The surprise was that, during the night a raccoon had apparently come up on our porch and found the bag of bird feed that I thought I had secured under the lid of our propane grill. I say thought because, as I look back on it now, I realize that the lid hadn’t closed all the way when I put it there, yesterday, and was probably what gave access to the feed in the first place.
My youngest son, noticing the seed all over, said something like “Wow, Dad – it’s too bad you couldn’t rig up some kind of trap to catch that raccoon when it comes up on the porch, so it wouldn’t do stuff like that.” Suddenly, though, I saw what happened in a different light. Maybe it was watching The Rifleman with him in the mornings before he goes to school, or maybe I was remembering growing up in the country, but I channeled my inner Lucas McCain and said, “Well son, see, we can’t rightly do that. That raccoon is just doing what it knows to do. It’s my fault the feed was left out there, not his. He found it and got into it, like any animal would. I’m a human – I’m supposed to be smarter than that.”
He just looked at me, but I think he got the point. What was the point, you ask? Well, it was twofold, by my way of thinking. For one, we share this planet with animals. I’m no Gaea-worshipping tree-hugger, but I have a respect for the animals that God created and put here, and I’m working to instill that same respect in my sons. Those animals still live here, even when we build homes and cities on areas that used to be their home. I screwed up and left the feed out where the raccoon could get into it. That was my fault, not its fault. The second lesson, which I think was even more important, was to show that we need to own up to mistakes that we make. Even as an adult, I still screw up, still make mistakes, and still do things wrong. It would have been easy to rant about it, blame the raccoon, curse my “bad luck,” and a whole bunch of other things that would, at the end of the day, avoid taking responsibility for what happened. Instead, I am grateful that I had the presence of mind to own up to it, as a man, and set an example for my son. I showed him that it’s not only o.k. to admit having done something wrong, but also to make it right and not make a bunch of excuses for it. It may sound old fashioned, but to me, that’s one of the marks of being a man.
I pray he’ll remember it as he grows and, someday, if he has sons, pass it on to them as well. Responsibility seems to be a fading light in today’s world – it’s up to each of us to keep it alive, and pass that light on to those who come after us.
God bless today, my friend!