I’ve seen him bus tables for people in need of a Thanksgiving meal and bend down low to take his brother’s hand and check a skinned knee. I’ve watched him spend his last dime to buy candy for someone else and take part of his vacation and feed animals that other people had given up on, animals that needed refuge.
The woman, the one who runs the refuge, she showed him how she prepares the food for the 250 exotic animals that were once pets. The tiger that was a Christmas gift for a 5-year-old. The peacock that previous owners found to be too loud. The turtle that grew too big.
We humans did this to them, she said as she doled out blueberries and chopped up melon. We captured them. We made it so they don’t know how to live in the wild. And now it’s up to us to fix it.
She patted a horse, greeted an iguana and fed two lemurs. When the gate closed behind us, I slipped in the question I’d been wanting to ask since I first heard about Safari’s Sanctuary – the one where I ask how she takes care of the dangerous animals. The bears. The majestic lions. The alligators. The snakes.
How do you care for an animal like that, one that terrifies you?
Fear is often learned, she said. And anytime I’ve been scratched or hurt, it has been my fault. She misread the animal. She missed a cue.
She and Jessie walked ahead. I followed along but my mind was still processing how much of my own fear was natural and necessary – and how much fear I had simply taught myself.
I choose to fear failure. I agree to worry about what people will think of my messy house, my rowdy boys and my written words. I use fear as an excuse for not helping more and that truth cuts as deep as a cougar’s claw.
Fear is easier than faith. It makes it OK to pass on that rewarding job or that amazing volunteer opportunity. It stops us from pulling out the guitar or the paints or the running shoes.
Fear requires less but it also makes us less of who we were made to be.
We walked to the animals with the high fences and fierce teeth and all the while she talked about safety precautions and about love and responsibility. But no more talk of fear.