jack walks down the street, whistling to himself. he turns left. there is a sign somewhere. he walks further down that street. he makes another turn, to the right. there is another sign, “dead end street”. whistle, whistle, whistle. he keeps on walking. another sign that proclaims, “this is a dead end street!” whistle, whistle, yeah, okay, it’s a dead end street. jack keeps up a brisk pace. another sign, “this is a dead end street with a big, nasty brick wall!!”
big, nasty brick wall, huh? interesting. he thinks about that a little bit, still whistling, still marching on, his arms swinging, his legs eating the pavement like there’s no tomorrow. he takes a moment out of his busy walking and whistling and generally moving like he was going to ram the world like a tank, he takes a moment to look up, and sure enough, there is a big, nasty brick wall almost right in front of him. well, no reason to slow down, is there?
bad story, you probably think. that was predictable at least 1/3 of the way through!
and you know what? it’s not as if jack doesn’t know that story, either. he’s been down that road, oh gosh, i don’t know how many times. it’s predictable – and yet it happens over and over again.
this is jack’s version of the famous “i walk down the street” poem (an autobiography in five chapters, by portia nelson)
remember when we were talking about writing our own story, a while back?
we have a choice now.
we can interpret jack’s story any old way we want. we can say, geesh, what an idiot, this jack. we can say, jack has a big problem, and he needs to go get fixed.
if we say, “what an idiot”, we condemn him. if we say “he needs to get fixed”, in a way we also condemn him: to reach for an unattainable state of perfection.
another reaction could be to congratulate jack on his strength and perseverance – after all, with all these smacks in the head, lots of others would have given up. not jack! no, he’s still willing to go down the road – heck, any road at all! we could try and learn from his willingness to get up and keep walking.
we could also get it that jack is our brother, or maybe, that he’s us, ourselves. we could walk up to him, sit beside him as he holds his head, offer him an aspirin, and walk with him. and maybe, just maybe, next time there is a sign that says “dead end”, we’ll have two heads, and one of us can nudge the other and say, “hey, wasn’t there a sign just now? wanna go back and check what it says?”
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