A Day in the Park
There once was a young man named Alvin who lived in a city some distance from his home of origin. Alvin had traveled here to discover himself. He believed that the city offered all the opportunities he would need to actualize himself so he could become all that he could be. Alvin was not a particularly handsome fellow, nor was he excessively smart. But to his credit he had a heart of gold and wherever he went he tried to spread good cheer and love.
Now Alvin, it turns out, was not so happy with his adopted city life. He was lonely and suffered bouts of depression that kept him immobilized at times. Alvin did love to watch the birds outside his apartment window as they played in the park across the street. From this vantage point he could see the birds dancing about in flight, chasing each other and diving for scraps of food that were thrown to them by park visitors. When Alvin was in one of his depressive states, venturing across the street to feed the birds usually helped him regain some optimism.
One day, while Alvin was watching the birds from his apartment window, a beautiful woman walked by and sat down in the park where the birds were playing. She called to them and sang with them and offered them food from her hand. Alvin was totally captivated by her. She was undoubtedly the most beautiful woman he had ever seen and he felt a strong urge to go over and meet her. He decided that the next time he saw her in the park he would make it a point go over and say hello.
A few days later, the woman came by again. She sat down in the park and began feeding the birds as she had done the last time. True to his commitment, Alvin left his home and hurried across the street to greet her. He was nervous but proceeded all the same.
“Good day,” she said as he approached. “I was wondering if you would come out and say hello. I have seen you on a few occasions looking over here from your window.”
Alvin was taken aback momentarily. He had not expected to be greeted by her and even wondered if he would have the courage to come over and meet her.
“Hello dear lady,” he began. “It is true that I have been watching you from my home across the street. I admire the way you interact with the birds and how easily they come to you. You have some special gift no doubt?
“I very much enjoy nature,” she replied. I derive much pleasure from wildlife and the outdoors. I miss the times in my childhood where I played outside for hours and got to know the ways of some of these creatures.”
“You are not from the city, then?” Alvin inquired.
“No, I’m not,” she answered. “I am from the country, not too far from here. I came to the city to find work and start a new life. When I miss my earlier life I come here to the park to be with the birds and the other creatures that scurry about.”
“So, what is your name?” Alvin asked.
“I am Janine,” she replied. “But my friends call me Jean.”
“I am Alvin,” he continued, and extended his hand to formally greet her.
“Yes, I know,” she added. “You are Alvin who used to live in the country also.”
“Why that’s true,” he said surprised. “How did you know?”
“Oh, I know many things,” she replied somewhat cryptically. “Won’t you join me in feeding the birds?”
Now Alvin was truly intrigued. Who was this woman and how did she know about his background. “Oh well,” he thought, “perhaps she will tell me soon enough.”
Just then a policeman stopped in front of them and asked what they were doing.
“Oh we are just feeding the birds,” Jean answered, “and enjoying this wonderful day.”
“Very well,” the officer acknowledged, and carried on with his rounds.
Other visitors to the park stopped by as well, all curious to know what she and Alvin were doing.
“Just feeding the birds,” Jean would answer with a smile, “and enjoying the afternoon. You have a good day now.”
Alvin could no longer contain himself. He was eager to know more about this woman. She seemed so at ease with herself and with everything she did. She was not at all disturbed by the policeman’s questions or the many other interruptions. She just continued enjoying her time in the park, feeding the birds and watching the squirrels and rabbits running about.
Suddenly a hawk appeared overhead and all the creatures in the park started to screech in panic. The squirrels ran up the trees and the rabbits hid in the bushes. The birds continued to scream in fear and flew wildly about. And then a chilling aura of stillness came over the area. Alvin was concerned.
“What should we do?” He asked excitedly.
“Nothing really,” Jean quickly replied. “The hawk will go away soon. There is nothing for him here.”
And, as predicted, the hawk rose up into the sky and flew off in another direction. Alvin’s heart had been racing the whole time. He greatly feared what the hawk could do to the smaller creatures and had already imagined a number of frightening scenes.
Jean, Alvin noted, was not at all distressed. She seemed to have a great faith that all would be well. She never failed to maintain her composure. Alvin was truly impressed. This woman was not only kind and beautiful; she remained calm under the most strenuous of circumstances. She just seemed to know how to handle difficult situations, even those that could potentially pose a serious threat. Alvin wanted to know how she did this, so he pressed for answers.
‘Please, dear lady,” he implored, “help me understand your approach to all these situations. You never seem surprised or shaken by anything that happens. The policeman did not disturb you, nor all the passersby, not even the threatening hawk. You maintain that you are a country person like myself, yet I shuddered and worried during all of these situations. When I feel overwhelmed, I tend to retreat rather than face a particular difficulty.”
Jean looked at him and could see that he was truly confused. So she set about to explain in the simplest terms.
“Well, my dear Alvin,” she began, “there was a time when such events would have shaken and upset me also. When I first came to the city, I was afraid of everyone and intimidated by most of the situations I encountered. Now I am not at all concerned for I believe in a Higher Power and this knowledge keeps me well grounded and calm.”
“And what is this Higher Power?” Alvin asked.
“For me,” Jean went on, this is God who watches over all of us and blesses us with His grace. Through this grace we are awarded certain abilities which, when developed, keep us well protected from what might cause us harm. The eagle, for example, is protected by its ability to soar high in the heavens. The horse is protected by its speed on the ground. The squirrel is protected by its ability to climb and to hide. And the rabbit too is able to run quickly and turn with great ease. All creatures, including us humans, have certain special abilities that protect them.”
“Yes, yes,” Alvin interjected, “but aren’t these creatures also vulnerable in many ways? Is it not true that a good number of them perish as they fall prey to those who hunt them?”
“This is true,” Jean acknowledged, “but all creatures are still protected by God’s grace and are simply returned to the Source if they happen to perish. We humans, on the other hand, come into this life to learn the lessons we need to grow and evolve.”
“I see,” said Alvin. Then how is it that some of us become confident and calm as with you, and others become depressed and withdrawn as with me?”
“By our choices,” Jean answered. “These set us upon a particular direction and that direction is determined by how we choose. This includes our feelings about things also. For example, we may choose to confront a situation that presents some difficult challenges, in order to stay true to our spirit and purpose. Or, we may choose an unhappy course where, in retreating, for instance, we become depressed. Our choices directly affect these varied outcomes in terms of cause and effect. If I choose positively, I will receive positive results. If I choose negatively, I will no doubt reap negative consequences.”
“Are you saying,” Alvin asked, “that by your choices you became peaceful and calm?”
“Yes,” Jean answered, “just as by your choices you became depressed.”
“But I felt I could not help myself,” Alvin protested.
“And that is a choice, too,” was her reply. “Even though you may literally see no alternative than the negative consequence you are facing, it is still a choice, for without choice we would have no free will.”
“I see,” Alvin reflected, and he paused for a moment to digest her words. “Are you suggesting then that even unconscious choices, choices made without any awareness of potential consequences, choices made out of habit or negative beliefs, are still choices for which we are responsible?”
“That is correct,” Jean answered and then went on to explain further. “All our actions are determined by our choices. If we choose poorly, we will achieve a poor result. If we choose wisely, we will likely improve our outcomes. This is not always certain, but regardless, we must in fact choose. Life continuously presents challenges in the face of which we must make choices.”
“Since choosing appears to be inevitable, how can we learn to make better choices?” Alvin asked.
By seeking our deepest truth within,” was the reply. “By focusing on that essence inside us that knows all and sees all and can guide us toward our best direction. This is our Soul, our very beautiful and wise link to the Divine, our spiritual essence.”
Alvin was now breathless. He had never heard anyone speak like this. He was simply amazed. The more he asked, the more she explained. The more he tried to protest or object, the more she expanded on her basic beliefs. He could not refute her; she simply made too much sense. Eventually he stopped interrupting and just listened.
Her story had been similar to his. She had grown up in the countryside and moved to the city to improve her chances of advancing herself. She too had felt lonely and depressed much of the time in those early days. Then one day, while sitting in a park, a deer came by and looked at her. She reported that it seemed to be staring right down to her Soul. In that instant she remembered something important about herself. Connecting with Nature always made her feel good. Nature’s rhythm had always soothed her in the past, especially during childhood. Jean loved Nature and Nature, in turn, had given her much. By returning to this all important root Jean found her way out of her despair and back to that center within where her joy dwelt.
The same could happen for Alvin she explained. He too could reconnect with his inner Self by observing the rhythms of Nature. All things had a place in the pageant of Life and no one thing was any more important than another. Humans seemed to get depressed when they forgot this basic fact. Each person has a valuable role to fill in Life and no one else can do that for them. But without choosing to actively participate in Life, their role and contribution cannot be fulfilled and their talents and opportunities go to waste. “Such a shame,” Jean went on, “to not know you have a place in this Life. How else can you overcome loneliness than by finding your place?”
Alvin was mystified. He could not argue. His protests would have been wasted. He could only accept that she was right and she lived what she believed. One could not argue with the apparent success of her life. He listened for a while longer as she went on with her explanations. And then finally, he had to interrupt to announce that his head was overflowing with this new information and he needed time to digest what had been discussed so far. He thanked Jean for a lovely afternoon and for sharing her philosophy. He was certain he could make use of what he’d learned. Jean smiled warmly and gave him an understanding nod. But she had one more thing to share.
“It is not every day that you can have a conversation with your Soul, is it?” And with that she disappeared.
Alvin returned to his home and set about to restructure his life. He had choices to make; new choices that he hoped would lead him in a healthier direction. He did not want to be depressed and lonely any longer. He wanted love in his life and he wanted happiness. With this in mind Alvin set out to meet his destiny. He would not look back in regret; he would look forward instead and settle for nothing less than the best of choices. The Light glowing inside wished this for him and he would not ignore the invitation this time.