There is an antique story about an old donkey who fell in the farmer’s abandoned well.  Crying out, the donkey alerted the farmer who summoned his nearby neighbors to help him get the donkey out of the deep well. Their efforts proved totally fruitless. So, the farmer made a decision. Since the donkey was old and the well needed to be filled with dirt, he would ask his neighbors to get their shovels to help him bury the old donkey while filling up the abandoned well.


When the donkey realized his impending fate, he cried out. But after a while he stopped his cries completely. When the farmer looked down into the well, he noticed that with each shovel full of dirt, the donkey simply shook it off and stepped up. After a while the donkey was able to step out of the well and run away across the field.


We are in a time of handwringing, dreary sadness. We sometimes feel like we are in a well of woe. We long for the good old days when we could run free in the pasture. But like the donkey, we have a choice. We can hunker down and accept our fate. Or, we can shake it off and step up. Stepping up means being optimistic and resilient. It requires staying smart about our circumstance and adaptable in our response. It means paying attention to the needs of those we serve and then serving with patience, tenacity, and joy.


Stepping up means taking the high ground instead of feeding divisiveness. Instead of exclusively watching Fox or CNN or MSNBC, watch them all with the goal of better understanding the point of views of those who differ from your own. Before you judge a movement, manner, or message as being wrong or bad, take time to learn. Stepping up involves sourcing your better angels while nurturing the same in others. It means being a caring neighbor and citizen; a listening partner not an opinionated critic.


When you feel like you are being hit with a “shovel full of dirt,” remember the old donkey. Shake it off and step up.