It was just last week, the end of summer in the South, so the temperature was still in the 80’s. My car was filled with groceries that needed to be refrigerated and frozen and I was still a good ten minutes from home. I was singing. Of course. The landscape here invites song. I know you’d agree with me if you knew the Mountain as I do. But you don’t. So you’ll just have to take my word for it.
So, I’m driving along on a spirited mission when suddenly I look out across a field to see something I’ve never seen before. Google tells me that a group of goats is called a ‘tribe’ or a ‘trip’. In this case, they were a tribe on a trip, a group of about 20 goats with an imaginary, albeit sloppy, circle around them. Two or three were looking out of their circle as if they had spotted an intruder. They looked rigid. Alert. As if they were standing guard, not wanting their circle to be soiled or broken. And do you know what stood outside that circle with his head facing toward them but his eyes and nose turned down? A lone donkey.
I drove by like a buzzing bee in my own little world. But the farther I drove past this scene, past this event in the life of a tribe and their donkey intruder, the closer I came to another world. It was a world where no one was excluded based on the shape of their body, the color of their fur or the noises that came from their mouths. It was a world where fields had no imaginary fences, where goat food was donkey food and donkey food was goat food and where all animals knew they were an important and even necessary part of the farm.
I turned off my music and made a u-turn.
I pulled into the high grass that bordered the field.
And I got out to give that tribe of goats a talking to. Maybe I even yelled at them a little bit, too—to be sure they heard me.
They looked at me. They stared me. And call me dreamy-eyed, but I’m pretty sure one or two of the older goats sitting down even nodded at me, together with me.
And the donkey? He looked up, his ears for a second there, perked and hopeful. And then, like a real life Eeyore, he turned his head back down again. But that’s why I had come. To give him even a small bit of hope when he seemed to have none himself. And to remind those goats that their tribe was bigger and kinder than they were letting it be.
* * *
That’s what we do. That’s what people who care, do. We live in our own little words, singing our own little happy tunes but when something comes along that needs us, that begs us to make a difference, we don’t shirk that opportunity, we take it.
Some days we’re the lone donkey, other days we’re a part of a tribe on a trip. It’s consciousness that separates the two, consciousness and a daring to stay centered in the goodness of ourselves and not the angry, rushed, self-centeredness of ourselves. And when one of us forgets, forgets to stay centered in the place where good things happen and kind things unfold, it’s up to the rest of us to stop what we are doing, to step up and forward. To make a difference.
Even in the life of a donkey.