A friendly Giardia bug

A long time ago, back when mullets were still cool, cell phones didn’t exist, and Bart Simpson was just getting started on his long and illustrious career, I had little league baseball practices with Tyson. We had them at Wilson school. At this time, we didn’t live so close as to be able to walk home, so we had to wait after practice was over for your mom to come pick us up. Sometimes, I’m sure, she was on time with this task. Other times, however, we were left on our own. Im sure she was just a little late, but to us it seemed like we would need to make camp, hunker down, and wait for daylight for rescue.  As is understandable, after a long practice of being totally awesome, putting on these clinics of baseball prowess, and baffling coaches with our unbelievable skill and abilities, we were thirsty. Apparently, we didn’t have the modern technology of today called water bottles back then, so we were left to improvise.  Without the adult supervision that may have dissuaded us in our next move, we used our excellent judgement and problem solving skills and routinely quenched our thirst with the ever so convenient irrigation ditch water that ran just outside the fence of our baseball practice field. Im sure this water had absolutely no contaminants, fowl excrement, dog and cat urine, mouse feces, or any such unpleasant thing as it’s appearance was totally clear. Im sure we had been warned against such a thing, but when your mouth feels like the mojave desert in the summertime of a multi-year drought, you do what you gotta do.

In the years since then, I have come to realize that what we were really doing those days when we partook of that cool, clean water was essentially immunizing ourselves from varying forms of water borne illnesses. Instead of just drinking ultra filtered, sterilized, treated boring water, we were preparing our intestinal tracts for future missions to Brazil. The sublethal doses of Giardia, ecoli, cholera, ebola, or whatever other microbial disaster was in that water was just preparing our bowels against future onslaughts of nastiness. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were conducting our own organic health clinic immunization program as we dipped our heads and faces in the water like parched dying animals.

So what does this awesome story of our bravery and survival have anything to do with anything? Its all about patterns. Thats the way things work in our lives. There are truths that span different aspects of everyday life. Tyson and I immunized ourselves against future disease by drinking that nasty ditch water.  By exposing ourselves to it, our bodies developed antibodies to whatever small amount of nastiness was in that water at that time. Our bodies then destroyed those intruders, and from the corpses of the invading germ armies, memorized their makeup, put out wanted posters, and FBI mugshots all over in our bodies to warn our insides about a future attack. Our bodies were then prepared with ammunition and specific customized armor to defend against that particular invading bug. Any subsequent attack would be thwarted instantaneously.

This true principle can be applied in all sorts of ways in our life. One has to do with how we prepare ourselves, or our kids, to go out in the disease ridden world. Do we send them out in the world after having lived in a protective sphere of purified air, water, and food, and living in a padded room in the basement with sunblock, a football helmet, and mosquito spray all over them? If we did, what would happen the first time they tasted a quarter pounder or sugar wafers? They would go crazy and devour every last one they could get their hands on. Do we send them out never having let them climb on a chair when they are 2 years old, fall out of a tree, never let them fall down the stairs, fall off a bike, or  scrape their knees, or get in a fight? As moms and dads, I think our first instinct is to protect our kids, and ourselves for that matter, from everything that can potentially hurt us, or them.  But are we really helping? Are we really helping by trying to shelter ourselves and our kids from the realities of the world?  Wouldn’t it be better to teach them to overcome these diseases by choice, so that they can live in the world and not of it? To let them drink out of the ditch so to speak?  We can’t protect ourselves from exposure to all the nasty things in the world, but we can immunize ourselves, and prepare ourselves to overcome, defeat, and withstand the fiery darts that are headed our way.  But, it requires us to allow that to happen.

What would happen if Tyson and I had asked our mom if we could drink from the ditch? What would the answer have been? Absolutely not! are you crazy? But, would Tyson and I have guts of steel resistant to all the horrible disfiguring diseases known to man if we had not? Did we, in some seemingly small way benefit from drinking a small amount of cow manure? I say yes, yes we did.

We have to be able to live full rewarding lives in the world we live in. Those are the cards we’ve been dealt. That world has some nasty garbage all over in it. But, its the world we live in. We can be strong, and honorable, and do the right thing, all while living in a wicked world. Remember, the iron rod was right in the middle of the mist of darkness, not around the periphery shielded from everything nasty. We cant shield ourselves from, hide from, and wish away all the bad things we will face. We have to trust ourselves, and our kids for that matter, to make the right choices. And sometimes, the choices will be to drink from a ditch. But, its not the end of the world. Real meaningful growth and progression doesn’t come living in a padded room with a helmet on. It comes from tripping, falling, getting dirty, and dusting yourself off, and moving in the right direction.

So, my advise to myself is, to teach myself, and my kids as best I can, and let them learn from their mistakes, just like I did. They need to learn to dust themselves off after they get dirty so to speak. to become clean after they get messy. Even though every last instinct is to do the opposite and try and protect them or us from everything that is coming our way.  We cant protectively squeeze ourselves or our kids so tight, that they suffocate for lack of air. We can do more damage than good. Sometimes we have to learn by trial and error for ourselves for it to actually mean anything.

Remember that war in Heaven thing when two plans were presented? The first would guarantee success, 100% retention, all God’s kids safely back home, no strays, no errors, no mistakes, nothing but pure obedience. The second plan, the dangerous plan, the plan that would cause pain, anguish, loss, betrayal, and every other fear of a parent. The second was the plan that was chosen. Because that plan included freedom and choice. Winning the game against a great formidable opponent means so much more than winning by forfeit. Its like beating Michael Jordan in a game of one-on-one vs beating a guy with no arms or legs in a boxing match. Its better to prepare for the realities of life, and overcome them than to fear them, ignore them, and wish they weren’t there. All life’s obstacles are there to struggle over, not sneak around. In the end, we need to be immune to the nastiness of the world, not just simply “lucky” never to have contracted any life-threatening diseases by hiding in the basement.