To Flee or to Freeze
That is the question. The first night of our church women’s retreat, we were in the dining hall when Mr. Retreat Director got up to speak. As he started with the “ Dos and Don’ts” of the camp, I was enjoying our girl chatter thus not fully engaged until I heard the word “bear”. Mention bears and you have my attention.
Being a transplanted Texan living in California, “ I don’t do bears.” Give me a rattlesnake, tornado, flood, or hurricane and I don’t panic. Talk about how to survive a bear sighting and I’m totally yours.
Having gotten my attention, I honestly thought he must be joking. He first told us that two absolutely normal human reactions to seeing a bear in our path is either to flee or freeze. People either flee or freeze?
I had one of those dejavue feelings. A true story visual came back to me in living color from 30 years ago.
My wonderful, brave, Navy officer husband and I were on our honeymoon, taking a sunset stroll back in the woods of the beautiful Smokey Mountains. Just married for a few days, we were holding hands and thinking about the wonder and awesomeness of our newly married life. Suddenly there it was. A big black bear in our path. I froze because that is what I do. It works with bees. No fear cause “my man was here.” At least I thought he was. I turned around and he was gone. He was running at top speed away from both of us. Short honeymoon.
Yes, we are still married which is as much of a miracle as it was we were not eaten. At least according to Mr. Camp Director.
“If you flee or freeze, your chance of being the bear’s dinner increases. He will think you are prey either way. And if you run, he senses your fear and that makes you even more vulnerable.”
I’m thinking he had better tell us what to do or I’m gone. This is where I swore he must be kidding.
“You need to make yourself as big as possible ( no problem here, I need to lose a few ), then flail your arms all around and sing at the top of your lungs.”
Everyone laughed because surely he was trying to ease the tension with a little laughter. Although I found out later, I was the one of the few tense women in the room as California women are okay with bears.
“I’m serious” he claimed. “ There have been studies.”
As I was pondering on how on earth they got volunteers for the study, I forgot to ask the most obvious of questions.
"What song do we sing to a bear?" All night long I tossed and turned and no song came to mind. I was supposed to be teaching on faith the next morning and couldn’t sleep for fear of bears.
I thought about “Amazing Grace”, but weren’t they playing that when the Titanic sank? Bad choice. The only other song that came to mind was “There is no business like show business” cause I figured, hey if I am singing to a bear that could eat me, I am a dang good actress.
Still no green light. And then I had it. I knew it was the right song, because it made me feel happy. It came from my spirit because I knew really and truly the bear does not care. In the face of fear (or bears) we need a happy song. A song that will chase fears away.
Out from the tapes of my past , there was a song that always made me happy. “Zippity doo dah, Zippity Ay… my oh my what a wonderful day..”
For the bear I needed to tweak the song…
“Jesus is with me and He’s here to stay… zippity doo dah zippity AY”
That was it. I was prepared and taught my lesson in confidence sharing about my new song to chase away bears. It was right after 9/11 and I realized it pertained to all fear. When fear paralyzes me, or makes me want to run, I need to sing it a happy song.
I did share my concerns with Mr. Camp Director and suggested he at least give the women the right choices of songs, you know.. “according to the study.”
He looked me at me as though I was kidding.
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