When I was seven years old, my father decided to become a minister and enrolled in a local seminary. My family moved into the campus housing which meant that we had to give up our beloved dog Sandy. Luckily, we had good family friends who were willing to take her. They lived nearby and we would be able to see Sandy often. I know it sounds like an ideal solution, but the truth was that I hated giving Sandy away, even to family friends. I not only mourned the loss of my dog, but I worried that she would miss us and that they wouldn’t treat her as well as we did. How could I be sure that the boys weren’t teasing her, and that the family was giving her enough attention? How could Sandy possibly be as happy with their family as she was with ours?
Luckily, my fears proved ungrounded as our friends provided Sandy with an incredibly loving home until she died at the ripe old age of sixteen. The transition from one family to another may have confused her for a little while, but she was well and truly taken care of for her entire life. We are still close to those friends, and recently one of the sons (one of the boys my seven-year old self didn’t quite trust with her dog) recently texted me a photo of him holding Sandy when she was in her twilight years. “She would sit in my lap and let me pet her like this every night,” he said. It is one of the sweetest photos I have ever seen.
I doubt that he has any idea how much I appreciated getting that picture. First of all, it confirmed what I had already known: they loved and cherished Sandy just as much as we did, and she was quite happy with them. But even more importantly, it reminded me that as much as I loved Sandy, I wasn’t the only one who could care for her and give her a good home. Her happiness didn’t depend entirely on me.
I have always been the sort of person who likes to get things done, and who tends to believe in the old saying, “if you want something done right, do it yourself.” And while I know that the world needs those of us who are willing to take on responsibility and get things done, I also know that it is both arrogant and foolish of me to think that I am the only one who can do that.
I need to remember that when someone tells me about a problem, they are not necessarily expecting me to solve it for them. Sometimes, all they are looking for is a sympathetic ear. I need to understand that not only is it not my job to take care of everyone and everything, but that I can’t possibly do so. In short, I need to recognize my own limitations. And I especially need to learn to trust in the the fact that there are plenty of other people in this world who are fully capable of taking care of things, even without my help.
I have kept a copy of that photo, partly because it makes me smile whenever I look at it. But it is also an important reminder that I don’t, actually, carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. It’s enough that I do the best I can, as often as I can. And then I have to trust that there are always others around who can handle the rest.