There’s a timeless Native American folk story about an old chieftain schooling his tribe about the battle that goes on within each of us.
As the tale goes, he gathers his people around him and instructs them about the battle between two wolves living inside each of them.
One wolf is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, and regret. It is greed, arrogance, fear, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride and ego.
The other wolf is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, perseverance and benevolence. It is empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith to the spirits and Mother Earth.
In deference, the assembled sit obediently, reflecting on the elder’s words, until the youngest among them boldly stands and asks the chief, “Which wolf wins the battle?”
To which the sage replied, “The one you feed.”
I thought about this tale while battling a personal decision that carried a risk and, if implemented, would dramatically impact my life’s work from commercial enterprises to more personal, socially rewarding endeavors. After much consternation, the “good” wolf within me consciously appeared and steered me to a new path in life. Armed with new found certainty, I decided to donate a portion of my business earnings to non-profit organizations.
Content with my decision, I, too, like members of the tribe, reflected on the wolves inside of me. But, as contemplation often does, it leads us to others and curiosity about how they arrived at life-altering decisions.
I wondered if Ron, my nephew had channeled his inner wolves when deciding to gift a kidney and renewed life to his uncle, Dan.
I’m a baby boomer and have over my lifetime gained a modicum of wisdom. So how is it that this young man, with a wife and children of his own reconcile the risk – knew clarity of reason – knew so much about what matters in life?
How is it, that his conscience would guide him to offer a part of himself to another?
I don’t know if parallel universes or heavens exists, or if they have intrinsic meaning or principles. But I do know earthly purpose when I see it. I marvel at the depth of his compassion for the common good – extended for the betterment of us all.
And that is unquestionably what my nephew has done. I weep when I dwell on it. He’s forever set the bar to a height few if any of us will ever reach. But it’s worth trying. It deserves aspiration and admiration.
More often than not, we live our daily lives self-absorbed and insulated. Individually, we need to summon our inner wolves and discover our reservoirs for self-awareness and benevolence. We’d discover that introspection and the gift of life are the greatest gifts of all.
In this holiday season of gift giving, we should take a moment to acknowledge the sacrifices of others as well as the inner strengths we possess. We should be indebted to the proposition that the measure of a man or woman isn’t determined by their gift of gab or talent, or intellect, or position, or wealth. But by the gift of loving their fellow man.