TITLE: Catch and Release 7/30/15
By Nancy Teune
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Catch and Release
“Here. Catch!” he said. I turned to see a red something flying toward me. Instinct took over and a soft object landed into my open hands.
“A throw toy.” So I threw it back.
“What for?” I asked. It came back to me and I examined its large black dots scattered across the red dome of the flat bottomed toy. Bright eyes beneath bouncing black antennae looked up at me. “It's a lady bug!”
“It's a gift. Thought you'd like it,” he said. I couldn't help but laugh. And that was the point.
He had known me since his childhood. One Christmas he gave me a new, but ratty looking teddy bear along with a book – something about discovering your inner child. He clearly thought I was too serious.
Now I held a fluffy lady bug because my house was a stop on his road trip to visit friends and family; he was about to set off on the next leg of his journey. He raised up his brown hands and I threw the toy to him again. He laughed. Then he curled his narrow fingers around it and said, “My dad gave it to me. I love toys. They bring people together. My half-brothers and I played with it when I visited Dad in Alaska. Too many people stop playing when they become adults. Dad told me about a tradition of his Indian tribe and I watched him practice it.”
“What tradition is that?” I asked.
“When someone comes to visit or you visit someone, you give them an item of yours that you really like. It's a way of showing respect. Then they keep it as long as they want and are supposed to pass it on to someone else. It's about holding lightly to things and recognizing the value of people. So I want you to have this. Play with it. Enjoy it and then go ahead and pass it on – when you're ready.”
He hugged me and I walked him to his car. He continued his road trip. I squeezed my black and red lady bug and felt a warm flush inside my chest. 'I like him trying to teach me to relax and play.' Back in my room I set the toy on my dresser. I thought of all the times I'd held on to souvenirs or gifts just because they were mementos of a person I cared about. He was permitting me, even encouraging me, to let it go to someone else.
That bright red half-sphere popped up many times: from a box I unpacked after moving or a forgotten drawer where I'd placed it while traveling. Each time, a warm feeling rose up inside of me causing an automatic smile. I played with the lady bug occasionally; I thought about it for years. It represented more than an idea or a model of good behavior. It not only challenged me to hold lightly to my possessions, but I came to see its meaning as a fundamental principle which God established in the universe! I am not to clutch things – or people – to myself. I am to give my things and myself for the good of others; for the community, to the glory of God who is the quintessential giver of all good things. Jesus even alluded to this when he said, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it...” (Luke 9:24 NLT)
That lady bug had become one of my life's treasures so every time it popped up, I'd put it on a shelf in my room again. And that's where it was when 'the day' finally came upon me. The right day, the right occasion and the right person: it was time. So I did it. I passed on my little treasure to someone else.
In that action I felt nothing taken from me. Instead, I felt lightness of spirit. Instead of loss, I felt joy and freedom in the giving. God must have set a law into our lives that is summed up in the Native American expression that a gift is not a gift until it is given twice, at least twice.
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