There is a Native American story which goes like this:
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
This story serves as a powerful metaphor for our personal growth but it could equally be a social metaphor. In an alcoholised society we are attracted to the idea of fun, ego, noise, the drugged extrovert, the puffed out chest, the swaggerer, the flashy car. We misidentify the “heroes”. This attitude is the “evil wolf” of the story, the one our society feeds. Just look around you to see the results and the suffering it causes.
The true unsung heroes are the mothers and above all the single mothers, perhaps abandoned by a feckless partner for another; or those women who take themselves and their children away from a harmful partner in spite of the financial hardship that this may entail; or those women who perhaps support a lethargic partner who contributing little, is happy for her to carry the weight and responsibility of everything. I have the great privilege to observe such women in my own life. No drama, no “look at me” − quite simply thoroughly decent people, often quietly and diligently working whatever their profession might be (lawyer, doctor, journalist, running a business maybe working in a bar, cleaning house, cooking, often two or more jobs) − nearly always in good humour, kind and yet fully themselves. They have their blind spots just like the rest of us, the traumas that have shaped them. These are the “good wolves”; they nurture generosity, kindness, empathy − something our society needs.
I feel both humbled and in awe. I observe them and doubt that I could carry such a load. These are the real heroes in our society – unsung; in many ways the embodiment of love and compassion. And yet they are almost invisible or disregarded.
Perhaps as you read this you think: “¡Hah!, you clearly don’t know my mother”. My mother who recently died, could have been classed as a narcissist. (Our society so loves these labels which at the end of the day are entirely fictional.) But as I prayed and meditated upon her life and my relationship with her, my heart was filled with a deep sadness for all the suffering she endured in her life, for the pain and confusion she carried with her that shaped her. In her thoroughly weird way she did her best. I do not know if there is such a thing as reincarnation but I found myself praying with a deep desire that she might have a “good” reincarnation where she might experience the happiness and the peace that eluded her in this life.
I do not condone her behaviour which had a terribly toxic effect on my life and the life of my siblings. The fact is that we have all to take full responsibility for our actions; no one else can, but the question I ask myself is this: “had I suffered all that she had suffered would I have been any different?” I doubt it. She is as deserving of my love and compassion as are all beings, because just like me (and you), she wanted to be happy and avoid suffering −something that was always so distant for her.
So with all my heart I wish love to those mothers who soldier on through their own suffering, bearing an unbearable burden, and yet day after day provide material sustenance love and care for their children. You are truly the good wolves − the unsung heroes.
I honour you all whoever you are and wherever you may be, I thank you for the kindness, the love and the compassion you bring to this world. I see you.