Our dog Murphy is obsessed with playing fetch with a plastic ball. He thinks about it all the time. How do I know? Because when I come home, sometimes several balls are lined up right inside the garage door, waiting for me to come in. Or, lined up in front of my chair where I watch TV. Or, best yet, sometimes I’ll come out of the bathroom and see the balls lined up right outside the bathroom door.
The point being: He loves to play fetch. Kinda.
He does have a tendency to blow up his own game – if you only have one ball. One ball is never enough. If you throw one, he will race to retrieve it, bring it right back to you, and then refuse to let go of it. This results in a game of fetch resulting in exactly one throw. (Murphy is a really smart dog, except for when he’s not.)
If I have two or more balls, when he brings one back and sees me getting ready to throw the second, he’ll drop the first. If we tradeoff this way, we can play a loooong time, until one of us gets bored (me) or one of us gets worn out (Murphy.)
Why am I telling you this? So I can tell you this:
The past month or so, we have been doing a lot of de-junking, and changing rooms around in our house. I have trudged through the house a zillion times carrying boxes or furniture or trash bags.
I am first to admit that playing with Murphy hasn’t been very high on my list of priorities, and now that we are empty-nesters, there’s no kid here to pick up the slack.
Leave it to Murphy to find a way to play fetch without my intentional involvement. He discovered that if I am carrying something, he can run ahead of me and drop the ball right in front of my feet, resulting in me kicking it down the hall. He then chases it and returns to do it again.
Sounds dangerous? Yeah. At first I was a little freaked out, but as it kept happening, I realized that he always put it right where I would kick it – not where I would step on it. I never tripped or fell. Basically, Murphy turned me into an automatic fetch dispenser, which made for an entertained dog – and cracked me up as well.
Is there a message in this? Of course there is – there are several.
The WRONG message is that we should learn to find entertainment in other people’s burdens. That is a terrible message, so pretend I didn’t write it.
To find a better message, let’s let me represent 2020, and Murphy represent us.
2020 has been a rough year for most. Many of us are feeling the weight of many burdens from all that has been going on. Pandemic, politics, disasters, employment, etc. It has taken, and is still taking, a toll. (At this very moment, two of my sons are battling the coronavirus.)
It is easy, and understandable, that sometimes as we are trudging through life, we get caught up in the burden – the negative – and don’t pay much attention to the joy that can be found right under out feet.
Even last week’s General Conference can be viewed as a burden, with new guilt, new shortcomings and reminders of where we are failing. OR, Conference can be a joyful time of renewal, increased faith, and joy. I’ve talked to people who are experiencing both ends of the spectrum, as well as some of us who ping-pong back-and-forth.
It is easy to focus on our burdens, because they demand our focus. We don’t need to go looking for burdens – they’ll find us. Joy doesn’t make demands. It waits for us to find it.
So how to be more Murphy and less Brad? There are two quotes that I use in a class presentation I teach at writers’ conferences that I think are applicable here.
The first is from the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movie, “Joe vs. the Volcano.” Meg’s character Patricia says this:
“My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.”
- I don’t do amazement often enough.
The second, is from Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s Conference talk, “Oh How Great the Plan of Our God,” where he says this:
“We are surrounded by such an astonishing wealth of light and truth that I wonder if we truly appreciate what we have.”
“We tread a path covered with diamonds, but we can scarcely distinguish them from ordinary pebbles.”
It takes a conscious effort to notice the diamonds, even beyond trying to pay better attention. Sometimes we have to make some changes – some give up social media, some quit watching the news, some find new, enjoyable hobbies, some turn to friends, some turn away from toxic people.
As always, serving others and focusing our gratitude to the Lord are slam-dunk methods to see the world in a better light.
Our goofy dog found a way to find joy in the drudgery, and in turn, made the drudgery a little more enjoyable for me. Not bad, for a schnoodle.