Every day I drive to work I see a dead animal in the street somewhere between home and the office. Sometimes they’re as flat as a pancake, sometimes they just look like they’re sleeping. It really doesn’t freak me out, even if they’re guts are sprayed out before them. I have no connection to these poor critters.
But I have to admit that when I was the driver that squished one I felt a little sympathy. About 30 seconds from my house, a crazy squirrel darted out in front of me and pulled a typical squirrel move – he zigzagged. He (and I’m saying “he” because he reminded me of a teenage boy who acts before thinking) would have easily made it across the road if he had just kept going straight across, but for some reason he decided to try to run along with me. Now I was going 30mph and there’s no way a squirrel can go that fast unless they’re Rocky the Flying Squirrel – and this guy wasn’t.
So he starts running up the road and I swear I saw him look over his shoulder and his eyes widen just before he cut to his left. I breathed a little sigh of relief as I realized I wasn’t going to hit him. Once again, if he had just kept going he would have made it, but he decided to cut back to his right, right into the path of my car. Or should I say right under my car. For another split second I thought that squirrel was the luckiest squirrel in the world because I wasn’t going to get him and then…thump. The passenger side rear tire caught him. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw him flattened on the road, his tail giving one last wave in the breeze. And I felt sorry for the little guy.
How many times do we start on a path and things are going fairly well and then all of a sudden we panic and change course? It’s like we look over our shoulder, see something coming and we freak out. Instead of staying the course and making it to the other side, we change direction and run up the middle of the road. Sometimes we make it unscathed, our hearts beating wildly, and we wonder why we ever changed direction. Sometimes we get squashed by what life brings us.
My parents were great at staying the course. When things weren’t going well for us they didn’t panic. Dad just kept working hard and both he and Mom kept “trusting God”. As they often said, “As long as we have a roof over our heads, food on the table and clothes on our backs, we’ll be OK.” They truly believed that. We may not have had a lot of stuff as kids, but we always had a place to live, clothes to wear and enough food to feed all of us. And we always had each other – to play with, fight with and make up with; to learn with, to laugh with and to cry with. All that we went through, we went through together.
Somehow, when I was feeling a little sorry for that poor squirrel, I was thinking of a squirrel family waiting for squirrel Johnny to come home for a squirrel lunch. But then I realized that happens only in cartoons and kid shows, which made me think of my kids and how much I love them and miss them when they’re not around. And it made me a little more grateful for all I have now.