This morning I found a copy of an old Cherokee story whose culminating line has guided my life for a long time. The story was shared by Dean Yeong. It reads as follows:
“An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life:
“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil–he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you–and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
I thought of that parable this morning because of what happened to me and the church community I serve last night. Let me tell you what happened.
After a long day of working virtually at home, I had just sat down and to call one of my brothers. Shortly after the conversation began, the church secretary called. When I switched calls, she spoke to me in an understandably panicked mode. She said the security cameras on the church grounds were showing a few people on campus who were cutting the wires of other security cameras and taking them down!
It was still light outside. I couldn’t believe people would do such a thing in daylight!
I hung up and raced for the church campus. I knew my secretary had called the police, but I wasn’t sure how long it would take them to react. I was more than a little nervous about what situation I was walking into alone.
On my way, I saw the police had pulled someone over. I pulled ahead and parked awkwardly on the street. I approached the police officers and told them a break-in was occurring at our church just up the street about a mile.
“We already have officers on the scene,” one of the officers said.
With that I got back into my care and raced to the campus. When I arrived at church, I found 3 police officers already there. Not only were there multiple police officers there (just 10-15 minutes after the images were captured on film): one of the Dad’s from the church – whose family lived close by – was there as well. I was so glad I wasn’t facing the situation alone as I had feared!
Thankfully, because of the great coverage of the security cameras we were able to interrupt the individuals before they broke into the facility. Even better, we got clear video images of the perpetrators. Thank goodness we had installed video cameras 3.5 years earlier!
In the moments following the episode, I realized I had a choice. To use the imagery from the old Cherokee story above, I had to decide which wolf I would feed. Would I feed the wolf that represented the abhorrent acts a few individuals tried to commit against a church during one of its most vulnerable times; or would I feed the wolf that represented the incredibly positive and responsive police officers who looked out for us and the web of individuals connected to the church who responded with renewed commitment to look out for the church?
I decided to choose the latter wolf. If I had focused on the first wolf, these challenging days would have become even more anxiety-ridden. Even more fearful. Even more frustrated. Even more angry.
By focusing on the latter wolf, these challenging days have become filled with the assurance that I’m not in this alone. There are many good-hearted individual out there who are committed to looking out for one another – and protecting the community that embodies our values and way of being in the world. That knowledge brings me a sense of peace of which no burglar or circumstance can rob.
I shared this story because I know during these days of uncertainty and stress, every single one of us is faced with a question: which wolf will I feed? Every day. Every moment.
I hope you will be conscious of the choice before you and – no matter what happens! – choose to feed the wolf that will help heal our broken world and bring it the hope it so desperately needs.