Licking the Pavement

A few weeks ago, I watched my brother-in-law’s dogs while they spent a week at the beach. They’ve got two dogs: Maggie and Loopy (*name changed to protect the crazy). Maggie is a middle-aged chocolate lab. If you’ve ever owned a lab, you know that middle-aged can still mean terrible twos. Labs often live a decade as a puppy then become senior citizens overnight. I guess that’s what makes them so lovable.

Maggie is the exception. She has always been calm and sweet. She’s just laid back by nature. They found out recently that she is diabetic and I had to give her a shot of insulin in the mornings. This proved rather tricky – only because I didn’t listen very well when instructions were given.

This is a recurring theme in my life. I like to think of it as a cute little quirk, but it is often frustrating when I am left to do a task with no remembrance of how to do it… and from the inside looking out, I imagine this “quirk” is mind-numbingly bothersome to my family. When I take time to consider this, I often think I should change my ways and do better. But then I forget what I was thinking and move on to more fruitful imaginings. After all, we deserve a few eccentricities when we pass 50.

Back to the dogs…

Maggie and I weren’t working well together. For the first few mornings, she wasn’t very thrilled to see me coming with the shot and even though she is mellow, she does weigh 100 pounds and is tall enough that her bucks can reach sensitive areas. But then I discovered wet dog food. Wet dog food smells like a moldy, damp cellar after a possum has crawled in and died on a hot day. But to a dog, it must be like a chocolate éclair. She woofed it down and didn’t even notice the prick of the needle on her neck. Perfect. And this became our routine (and was evidently the instructions provided had I listened.)

But where is Loopy?

When set free in the morning, Loopy bolted straight to a puddle left by rain run-off from the car. I found her licking the pavement. In a panic, I checked to see if I had neglected to leave the water. Nope, three full bowls of nice, clean h2o – and yet that dog preferred to lick the pavement. Every morning it was the same thing. I tried coaxing her with bottled water, treats, and a ball to play with. No dice, she ran straight for the puddle. With plenty of better options, she only wanted to lick dirty water from the pavement.


One day during the week, my lovely wife had a birthday. Although you wouldn’t believe it to see her, she has joined me in the half-a-century club. We took her to a fun, loud, Italian dinner. A few tables away, there was a family of four who quietly interacted with their phones during the whole meal. I kept stealing glances and at some point, it dawned on me… they’re licking the pavement. With better options all around, they are glued to little electronic devices.

I could moralize more, but I’m as guilty as the next guy. Whether it is Instagram, football, our careers, or any myriad of other distractions, we get stuck wasting time on temporal things instead of investing in things that matter – our family, friends, and other human relationships. We lick the pavement.  Some things are unavoidable. We have to work and get things done. But be honest, we’ve all got the rocky, pebbly taste of wasted time on our tongues and time is a finite resource. What’s the answer?

As much as possible, let’s stop licking the pavement lick the important people in our lives instead!

Wait… that doesn’t sound right at all.


The Master Craftsman – Part 3

“Why have we stopped?” asked the apprentice.

“We have a duty to fulfill,” replied the master craftsman. “The family who dwells inside this hut have a sick little girl and I have made her a gift. Please retrieve it from under your seat and accompany me.”

The apprentice did as instructed and followed the old man to the door. A woman whose face was worn with worry welcomed them into the hut where a small girl lay on a sweat-soaked mat. The young man could not take his eyes off of the sick child.

“Is she better?” asked the craftsman in a low tone.

“I am afraid she is not. Her fever is still very high and she seldom wakes to eat.”

Downcast, the old man grunted in a low sympathetic tone. He motioned for his apprentice to hand him the gift. “I have brought her this gift. It is not much, but I hope she is able to enjoy it very soon.”

As he handed it over, the distinctive rattle of coins could be heard. The mother accepted the gift with a gracious bow while a tear rolled over her wrinkled cheek. “Thank you, sir.”

“I pray healing over this house,” said the master craftsman as he guided his apprentice back outside.

They mounted the cart and with a slight prod, the ox pulled them in silence until the boy’s curiosity could restrain him no longer.

“You chose to use the walnut?”

“Yes. I sensed it was right for her and although I used a portion, much remains.”

“May I ask what was inside the box?”

“Of course. It was a hippopotamus I carved for the little girl as I wept and prayed over her.”

“And you gave them money although you have so little?”

“I have all that I need, my friend. These neighbors are in need of food and medicine to care for their daughter and it is our duty to help them.”

“They are kin to you?” asked the boy.

“They are not,” replied the master. “What is kin and what is neighbor? These words are not different, they are the same. The oak tree does not choose the soil in which it is planted nor does it have the luxury to choose the seeds which take root nearby. Yet it must share the rains that nourish and the sun that shines upon it regardless of whether its neighbor is an oak, ash, or maple. So too, we must cooperate with those around us no matter whether they share our name or not. It is our honor and privilege.”

“Yes, master,” said the boy as he pondered this notion.

As the shop came into view and the silent journey reached its end, the apprentice asked hopefully, “Will the little girl recover?”

“I do not know,” replied the master. “These are things outside our control and influence. I can only hope and pray that she does.”

As they unloaded the lumber into the shop, the weight of concern became more of a burden for the boy than the heavy wood. Though he tried to focus on his task, his mind continually fell back on the little girl laying on the mat until he could hold his tongue no longer.

“I wish there was more I could do for the girl,” he cried. “I don’t like feeling so…”

He paused, unable to describe his feeling and wondering if his outburst was welcome.

“How do you feel?” prodded the master gently.

“Helpless,” concluded the boy as the word finally entered him.

“Yes, we are helpless. And I do not like feeling that way, either. There are times when we are called to action and there are times when we can only sit beside and watch things occur. In those times, do not discount the power of hope and prayer. Hope has a way of setting into motion things that we are powerless to influence. And prayer is our way of influencing the one who has the power to move the immovable.”

The apprentice said nothing, but pondered these ideas as he finished his work. Never in his life had he been confronted with sickness such as the little girl’s nor had he experienced the hopeless feelings welling up within him. Though he tried to take his master’s advice, he simply felt a black cloud enveloping him that he could not dismiss. It grew deeper and darker as the day drew to a close.


Click here to go on to part 4.

Click here to start from the beginning.