Befriending A Beagle
A number of years ago some new friends had us over to their house and I was excited to meet Ranger, their beagle. However, this dog clearly wanted nothing to do with me. It was explained that Ranger typically showed fear toward men, especially those wearing hats. Given that he was a rescue dog, the best guess is that the poor fellow had been abused by a man (or men), making his behavior understandable. While I could have simply decided to stay away from Ranger at that point, I was confident that with the right approach, he and I could become buddies over time.
With this as my objective, I made sure to never wear a hat in Ranger’s presence, and to always speak to him in a gentle voice. Rather than approach Ranger, I would sit on the ground and let him decide whether to approach me. I also made sure to not try interacting with him when any rambunctious kids were around. I knew my efforts had finally paid off one day when Ranger ran up to me without any coaxing, his tail wagging furiously. This despite the fact that I was standing up at the time and had forgotten to remove my baseball cap!
The entire process from introduction to friendship with Ranger took 16 months and later on when recounting this story to a colleague, he stated that he didn’t think it was worth all that effort. I had to respectfully disagree because I love dogs, and in my book any day I manage to make friends with a dog is a good day. In addition, through this process Ranger learned to be more trusting of people, making him a better dog. Equally important, the process required patience and a willingness to meet ranger where he was at emotionally, serving to strengthen my character and make me a better person. Note: In the interest of transparency, I must confess that I get equal satisfaction from befriending members of the feline species, even though the friendship ‘incubation’ period with them tends to take even longer.
Despite how well this story ended, it also saddened me to think of how many times I had not put forth the same effort in making a connection with people. I am ashamed to admit that while I was willing to go the extra mile in earning the trust of one of God’s creatures, I had sometimes not bothered to do so with those made in His image. This was especially the case with people who had trust issues or other emotional baggage. Fortunately, this sad realization caused me to make a change moving forward. While I still have a long way to go in this area, I can honestly say that over the years I have become much more consistent in my efforts to connect with the ‘challenging’ people God brings into my life.
Over time I also came to realize that this connection can only happen when we choose to see someone through God’s eyes and want to be a light in their life. It also requires an acknowledgment that we are all broken, and you and I may not be the easiest people for others to befriend. Doing these things requires tremendous effort, but in the process of helping someone to become more trusting of others, you truly minister to that person while at the same time becoming a better person and a better leader. Just something to think about.