The Burden of the Blessing
A few weeks ago, I used the last paper towel on the roll. My dogs love to chew on paper and cardboard, so I made a gift of the empty paper towel roll to Beara, one of my Yorkie-Poos. (It probably isn't good for them to chew on cardboard, but it felt like the benevolent-mom thing to do.) Anyway, Beara was thrilled with her unexpected gift and immediately clamped down her jaws on the precious cardboard treat. She is a fairly small dog, so the ends of the paper towel roll stuck out about five inches on each side of her mouth. I expected that she would quickly find a private spot (so she could evade her doggie siblings) and begin chewing on the roll, her usual M.O. when she gets a treat. She did not.
Strangely, she began to wander around the room in circles, still holding the tube in her mouth. She made no move to settle in anywhere, or to try to hide her treat from Finn and Rennie. Several times she came up to me, her precious burden still clamped tightly in her teeth, staring into my eyes with an expression I could only interpret as anxiety. I tried a couple of times to take the empty paper towel tube from her, in case that was what she wanted me to do to solve her problem, but she resisted. This odd unsettled behavior continued on for several minutes; Beara still was unable to roost anywhere to enjoy her treat.
It suddenly occurred to me that the roll of cardboard was so large that Beara did not know how to handle it, literally and figuratively. My perception of Beara's thinking was this: "This is too much of a good thing. I can't handle this much. But I can't put it down because someone else might steal it, even though I am not enjoying it. This blessing feels like a burden."
Once I had figured this out, I had to take action to help her. I knew she would not let me take the paper towel tube out of her mouth - she was not about to loosen her grip on the oversized treat - so I grabbed a pair of scissors and snipped the cardboard on either side of her muzzle. Now there were three cardboard treats, one for each dog. The hunk of the tube Beara still carried in her mouth was apparently now just the right size. She hurried off to a nice, comfortable spot on the rug and began chewing, totally happy with her treat. I gave each of the other dogs their share of the cardboard tube, and they quickly followed suit. They all chewed contentedly within a few inches of each other, not in the least concerned about what the others had, which doesn't happen often. It seemed as if sharing her blessing had enabled Beara to finally enjoy it, and, coincidentally provided a blessing for others, too.
I began to wonder what parallel there might be in our human behavior. Was it possible that what we first perceive as blessings, like the treat I gave Beara, might end up as burdens to us? Are we sometimes uncomfortable with blessings when we know that others do not have as much? Or maybe we become overwhelmed with the responsibility that often comes with blessings? That reminds me of the passage from the Bible that says, "For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required." (Luke 12:48a)
I had to talk this over with the other three writers in my group, of course. (We often get quite philosophical during our meetings.) Andrea pointed out that there might be a lesson as well in the idea that Beara did not make any progress with her dilemma until she asked for help. She wisely came to the one other being in the house who was perfectly equipped to help her - the human with the scissors. If she had asked for help from the other two dogs, the results would not have been at all satisfactory! Is there a moral for us in this, too? Maybe when we are faced with something overwhelming (even a huge blessing), we should think carefully about seeking help, and choose exactly the right one to help us enjoy the blessing - or burden? - we have been given. Or maybe it isn't a person at all, but a higher being we should consult?
Then, too, I think there may be a correlation for us to ponder in the notion that Beara did not, could not, enjoy her blessing until she had shared it with others. Maybe I am giving too much credit to Beara's doggie brain when I ascribe thoughtful benevolence to her actions, but it did seem as if she only gained enjoyment from her blessing when she had given up part of it to Finn and Rennie. Wouldn't it be great if all of us humans were to think that way - that blessings are not enjoyable until we share them with others? I know some people do have that mindset, but I know it is difficult for many of us (myself included) to give up any part of our blessings to others. If we did, maybe we, too, could finally settle down and enjoy what we have been given. Surely the world would be a much better place if we all shared the burden of our blessings with others.