Monday, January 16, 2017

Collateral Damage: It’s When Tough Gets Even Tougher

“People at war with themselves will always cause collateral damage in the lives of those around them.”  - John Mark Green

I never saw a dog that I didn’t like, but I have met a few that didn’t like me. I have always loved animals and I think dogs have always been my favourite. I didn’t have a dog growing up though both of my parents grew up with dogs in their homes. Dad told the stories of his dog Bunny that used to be very protective of the family. If anyone teased her, she became upset, and almost like an elephant didn’t seem to forget while additionally keeping a bit of a grudge against such an individual. My Mom’s dog, Jack, seemed to be more of a typical rural dog, who loved people and I loved looking at pics of him and his replacement Jack 2. I am not sure of the breed of dog that Bunny was, but the Jacks seemed to be similar to Border Collies. I do remember one dog from my childhood quite vividly though.

It was a daily trip for me to go to the garage where my Dad had worked since returning from his overseas stint that ended in 1945. The owner of the business had a collie and we became quick friends. I struggle at this point to remember the name of the dog, but we spent many an hour together, while I waited for Dad to get off work for the day. On one particular occasion, when I entered the garage, Dad told me not to go visit the dog, as he had not been feeling well all morning and was holed up in the inner office. I asked for the reason not to go visit, and Dad just repeated, “Well, he is not feeling well, so you should stay away today!” My ability to reason the facts, and the capability for my mind to understand the repercussions of not listening to Dads suggestion didn’t kick in, in this case, and I went in to see my friend anyway after a while. When I reached out to pet the dog, he turned his head toward me and snapped out; his teeth cut my hand. Dad took me next door to the doctor’s office to get me fixed up and reminded me that he had said not to go near the dog… and it was for good reason. The dog had an abscess and just snapped at me out of instinct. I call it the sick dog syndrome. People like dogs can sometimes lash out in ways that don't reflect their true nature, all because of something that is going on in their lives.

We often fret over things that happen to us, or to those we love, and may often try to intervene by lending a comforting shoulder or a busy hand to help lighten the burden. There seems to be little accomplished when we are pushed away, having our interventions rejected, only to compound the pain that we may be feeling for those who seem to be struggling. In my youth there were so many occasions when a friend seemed down-trodden, at odds with the world, and I would try to say something that to me, made sense, yet to that person very little consolation seemed present. My inexperience in life, quite often did not allow me any better results at those early interventions than my reaching out to that poor dog at the garage. I most often got bitten for my efforts.

Yet, I was taught as a child that we have to be prepared for life; all the eventualities that may come upon us call for stamina and consideration. My mother was very ill when I was a child and I was taught how to do many of the things that have enabled me to take care of myself while travelling and at home. My grandmother used to read a story from a book  that I think was called, “Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories”. The story revolved around two characters. The first was a farmer, an older man, looking for a young man to help him during the busy summer season. The second was a young lad, looking for work on a farm for the summer. The perfect match right? Well, one would think so at first glance. The old farmer approached the young man at the local exhibition and asked if he was a good worker, as he had been watching him and his steady, strong work ethic all day.  The young man uncharacteristically answered, “I can sleep when the wind blows!” The old farmer, not liking the young lad’s answer asked again and for the second time received the same answer. Not able to get the boy out of his mind, and knowing that he could work steadily, with a good attitude, as evidenced during the day, he asked him to come to work for him. Yet his heart still held some indecision about the boys attitude, when being questioned about his work.

A few weeks into the boys employment on the old farmers land, a storm arose and the old farmer awoke in the middle of the night calling for the young lad to quickly get up. There was much work to be done to save the harvest and animals, as a storm seemed to worsen. The boy did not answer and slept on! The farmer rushed out to his barns, his paddock, and the fields, and all was secured, closed tight and the livestock bedded down. He finally understood the boys answer…. “I can sleep when the wind blows!” Had the old man just flown into a rage and challenged the boy right then and there, a catastrophe might have ensued.

We are not always as prepared in life as that young lad was. Sometime the storms of life blow in and wreak havoc with our best intentions, and mess up life being lived. We like the dog in the garage can become edgy, temperamental, and at times more than unpleasant to be around. Do those around us always understand? Of course they don’t. We often allow things to pile up, without realizing that the very nature of the accumulation is beginning to cause alarm bells to go off, even projecting into our personality. We tend to write off those things as annoyances that will go away, or be handled at a later date. But just like the potential mountain, awaiting the right conditions one day, it may find itself part of a landslide that can cause lots of collateral damage. Surrounding the beauty of a mountain can be found homes, highways, railways, not to mention the people and animals that never seem to be prepared for what might eventually take place. Things that affect us, affect those around us.

I try to understand why people build homes, towns and cities on and around flood plains. I wonder for instance, why daredevils walk out onto rock outcroppings, too close to raging waves that can tear them free from safety and drag them to their deaths. There are so many things in life that can separate us from family, friends, our comfort levels, and yes in fact, even our lives. It is in those moments that collateral damage is at its worst. Those who leave us suddenly in death, that could be avoided, leave behind so many who will never fully understand. They will mourn the moment when the realization that, what should have been, was passed over for something which needlessly took place, and has now left them not one iota of hope, that their strength, courage or love can change anything now.

I can remember stories in my childhood of one of the local hunters going out and shooting two deer with one bullet. He had taken aim at the quarry and when investigating the shot found that a second deer, a fawn, lay beside the one which he had sighted in on. I am not sure of the regulations then, but I often wondered about the feeling that went through the hunter’s mind on finding that one shot killed two deer. Is it is like that in human life? I think so to some extent. One bullet can destroy two or more lives. One death to homicide for instance, can tear the life from a parent, spouse or child even when answers are forthcoming to explain the circumstances.  It can destroy the life and relationship of parents as well as siblings. A child’s or friend’s senseless death brings a sense of death to part of the life of those left behind. Little in life makes sense when the needless happens.

Is it not just death, as I have already mentioned, that can bring with it collateral damage. It is brokenness of spirit, lethargy, raw depression, separation, or loss of job that can cause rifts in relationship. On and on it can go and the list seems endless when you consider the numbers of scenarios that could take place in a person’s life. Is it fair to be asked to consider others too, as we try to deal with life’s situations on a daily basis? Is there a measure by which we can examine the causal effect or the repercussions that our actions have on others? Can we fairly, and with focused emotions, evaluate properly those moments, and is it fair to say that everyone is uniformly capable of doing so, if it were even possible? The hazard is found in the judgment that all things are foundationally equal in life. Society’s strata, though we claim to have mostly conquered that in North America, is still woefully present. Socio-economic differences make the measurement of “norms” almost impossible. To define measurable norms within society’s individual pockets of social and economic strata, the base lines for measurement, can be strewn with bias and cultural bigotry, bound to register a faulty analysis.

Today, I believe more than ever before in my lifetime, that there is a greater need for humanity to take more time for one another. I know that we are socially more active, spend more time trying to make ends meet, and sadly spend more time communicating superficially, rather than on a deeper emotional level in person.  Collateral damage may seem minimal, but it is still there. In all ages people have moved apart, been left behind, and those who suffer, often suffer for the rest of their lives. Let’s remember that what we do, say and how we act, takes its toll on others. By being present, aware and motivated to care about others, we share our love and compassion for what is taking place in other’s lives.  Let’s not make the place that we visualize as being between a rock and a hard spot personally, into something far worse for those around us… those we love and who love us.

No comments :

Post a Comment