Lessons from Meeple

Life is rich with teaching moments, those seemingly small events that impart something about our world, or more importantly, about ourselves.  Teaching moments often come in surprising ways.  A friend’s thoughtful gesture reminds us to become more considerate; our response to one spoken word teaches us something about ourselves.  It’s important to be on the look-out for these subtle moments; they have the ability to help us grow into better persons.

A few weeks ago I had a wealth of teaching moments from a surprising source. Rick and I drove to Maryland to visit our son, Brendon, and his puppy, Meeple.   While visiting, we took numerous walks with Meeple, a one-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. When not walking, we sometimes sat on the sofa with him, petting his soft black fur.  During our visit, I became aware of some admirable qualities in Meeple, reminding me of some important life lessons.  Here are a few:

  • Be curious and aware. The world is full of jewels and Meeple knows that well.  He pays attention.  A leaf resting on the ground does not go unnoticed. Towering trees are not just to look at but to examine with scrutiny.
    • My Learning: Don’t miss out on the world’s treasures! Behold the sparkling morning dew while it lasts and marvel at the orange-rust-red colors of autumn that take your breath away.


  • Live in the present. When Meeple naps, he naps well.  When he hears a noise, he listens.  When he walks, he’s committed to it.
    • My Learning: Wherever you are, be there.  Whatever work, study, or play you’re doing, do it with full immersion.  The present is all we have, and it’s plenty rich for all of us.


  • Love extravagantly! Meeple excels at this.  One day, after taking him for a stroll, a few of us were walking up the steps to his home to reunite with our son.  Meeple was excited about this, but when he saw that I lagged a few steps behind, he turned around, came back down the steps where I stood, and walked me up the stairs.  He made sure I was coming!
    • My Learning: Greet others with joy.  Include everyone.  Ask yourself, Who might benefit from a smile, a phone call, or a greeting card today?


What teaching moments have you received from your pet?



The Risk of Love

Goldfish bowl

When our son, Brendon, was about eight years old, we drove to the pet store, where he chose his first pets: two goldfish.

After the store clerk took them out of the tank for us, we purchased all the supplies we needed to be responsible goldfish owners. When we arrived home, we cleaned and prepared their brand new bowl, placed them inside, and put them on his dresser.

That evening I went to his room to take a look at our newly-purchased goldfish. They looked less energetic than earlier that day, even lethargic. I did not express my concern to my young son because I did not want to worry him, but the next morning my fear was confirmed.

The two goldfish had died.

Brendon Third Grade
Brendon, first day of third grade.
Photo: JStanton

Later that day, my husband, son and I dug a grave in the backyard and held a small ritual for them, accompanied by our son’s tears.

Perhaps it could be too easy to dismiss the significance of the life and death of two tiny goldfish, but the tears in a little boy’s eyes revealed something different. My son’s affection for his new pets, and his grief over their deaths, reminded me that no creature is too small, too insignificant, or too unimportant to be outside the realm of love.

To me, my young son was a reminder that love comes with risk, the risk of loss, the risk of being hurt. His tears, an expression of tender vulnerability, served their purpose: he was able to grieve and then move on, allowing the goldfish to be a nice memory.

It is indeed a paradox that in our most vulnerable places, where we feel tender and fragile, also lay our source of strength, healing, and hope.