Out for our afternoon walk one windy, winter afternoon, my Wheaten Terrier and I ran into Perry, our mail carrier. As usual, Perry offered Candy a big, tasty dog bone. While Candy sprawled on all fours on the snow-covered street and munched happily away, Perry and I chatted amiably about casual topics such as the weather and the economy. I suddenly wondered if he ever lost patience for the many dogs he inevitably encounters in his line of work.
"Have you ever been attacked by a dog?" I asked, remembering stories of mail carriers who lost life or limbs.
While Perry acknowledged that some of his co-workers carry mace, he has found an alternate way to combat canine fear. "I go through 30 pounds of dog bones every week," he said, proudly pointing past bundles of undelivered mail to the huge bag of generic-brand dog bones conveniently stashed next to the driver's seat of his regulation postal jeep.
So this is why he has no problem with dogs, I thought.
What makes this approach so spectacular is Perry. You couldn't tell by just looking at his smile and big blue eyes and matching uniform, that two years before, his golden retriever, Barney was stolen out of his house in broad daylight. You would never guess the terrible loss Perry suffered when he came home that afternoon expecting to see Barney waiting for him at the front window. You would never know that he lost not only his purebred hunting companion, but also one of his best friends.
Undoubtedly, Perry grieved the loss and still does. He must sometimes wonder about Barney, and what they'd be doing right now. Sometimes he may still feel anger toward the thoughtless person who selfishly stole a part of his life. But Perry is not bitter. It is clear as he offers Candy yet another treat that not a trace of resentment remains. It is as though he is able to speculate that perhaps even that faceless thief needed Barney more than he did. What is amazing to me is Perry's apt demonstration of the gift of optimism.
Despite a horrible loss, he opens his heart to dogs and people alike.
So many lessons can be gleaned from this simple story: appreciate what you have; not all who bark bite; loss is sometimes a means to embrace all there is to gain; the things that hurt most can also heal.
But what strikes me most is the idea of karma. Despite being robbed of his prized, loving companion, Perry is kind toward dogs and people alike. And both dogs and people respond: Candy pulls eagerly at her leash whenever Perry is in sight. And I always look forward to our chats.
We have a choice. We can give in to the seductive call of bitterness and resentment. Or, after properly and fully grieving, we can move on and greet the world with kindness and milk-bone offerings, as Perry does.
Whatever pains you, whatever ghosts haunt you, reach out to those you encounter. Perhaps you will touch them as Perry has clearly moved me. You--and the world--may just be a little bit better.