for release Friday March 5, 2004
by Melodie Davis
I was driving along a country road and noticed that a number of the cows in the field beside the road were lined up looking at the fence. Every now and then one of the cows would charge the fence menacingly. Usually we think of cows as contented and laid back. What was holding their attention and provoking such fear? What was raising their hackles? A dog? A deer (also frequently present along that road)?
Then I laughed. Their fearsome stalker was a madcap paper bag, being blown along the fence randomly with the wind. They were mad cows—but not the kind you’re thinking of. They must have though the bag was alive.
How often do we chase after, charge at and ultimately suffer much stress over items that turn out to be no more than empty paper bags flitting in the wind? Sometimes we call them straw men: things we think we have to battle, but we really don’t.
The first one I think of is bad drivers. Now, yes, we need to drive defensively and be on the lookout for other drivers doing stupid things. But since we all do stupid things on the road occasionally, when someone makes a turn without making a signal or speeds up while you are passing, let it go! Don’t fume for two miles.
Then there’s worry about lawsuits. Too often in this day of out-of-control litigation, people don’t do the things they should do and do the things they shouldn’t, out of fear of lawsuits. Should I give that Sunday school kid a hug who desperately needs one? Oops, might get sued, better not. Should I give my friend a ride home from school when hers has fallen through? The insurance man has warned me that her parents might sue me if she gets hurt. So sue me, I’m for helping out. Two examples and there must be many others. Yes, I know the threat of lawsuits is real. But don’t let the empty bag of frivolous lawsuits keep you from doing the right thing.
Then there’s the empty bag of what will other people think. What will people think if I die my hair? If my son doesn’t have a job? If our house needs painting? If I buy a red car? These are things you don’t really need to worry about.
Then there are those who worry so much about health, diet, and exercise they make themselves sick. Yes, these are all valid worries: but I am struck by how often those who are super careful about what they eat, staying trim, and following the latest health guru—then succumb unfortunately and tragically to cancer or heart disease or something else. Like the old joke about the 80-something guy who gets to heaven and wants to call back to earth to tell his wife to stop worrying so much about cholesterol: “Heaven is a wonderful place! Enjoy a little more cheese now and then and you can enjoy it sooner.” (Of course if you are 50 and your cholesterol is too high, you do need to take action about it. Not worry, but take action.)
There is the empty bag of worrying excessively about self. My schedule. My priorities. My family. My goals. How much I’ve had to suffer. Such persons are always first to tell their stories. Whether married or single, we need to learn the give and take of considering the needs of others as at least important as our own.
One of the most famous singles who ever lived has some good advice for us along these lines: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Jesus, circa 30 A.D. Matthew 5: 26-27)
This is not to encourage irresponsibility. Of course we have to work, drive defensively, be careful to avoid litigation, take due care about our reputations, and so on.
But just remember that God was watching those anxious, angry cows along the fence row, too. If God cares about some silly cows, how much more does God care about you and me?
For our free booklet for Lenten meditation, write for “Squeezing Prayer into a Busy Life.” Send to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text =780 words; end material = 105 words
We would appreciate it if you would include the "Globe Syndicate" bug at the end of the column.
©2004 by Globe Syndicate, all rights reserved.
Return to Another Way