When I worked in Baltimore, we took our clients on a white-water rafting outing. As preparation for the trip, we purchased large sub sandwiches and a cooler full of beer and sodas, loaded them in the back of my car and drove to Harper’s Ferry. When we got there, we were confronted with a large number of very hung-over clients who were happy to spend the day without the benefit of further alcohol. As a result, I returned to Baltimore with a full cooler of beer in my trunk. The next morning, my boss, Lana, said that she was having a party that weekend, and she’d like to take the beer off of my hands. “Of course” I said – and we went out to put the cooler in her car.
“Is that a cat under your car?” she asked.
“I don’t think so…maybe it’s a rabbit?” As we looked closer, I saw that it was a small groundhog. I figured it would run away when we opened the trunk, but it just stayed hunched up beside the front tire. At lunch, we went out in Lana’s car, and the groundhog was still there.
“Maybe it’s hurt or sick” I mused. I had visions of a rabid baby groundhog attacking me as I got in my car that afternoon, so I called animal control.
We had a conference call that afternoon – a really important conference call – and we all gathered in Lana’s office around the speaker phone to take it.
One of the wonders of modern technology is the invention of the mutable speaker phone. We could un-mute the phone if we needed to answer a question – otherwise, we usually had the phone on mute and joked around among ourselves. About 10 minutes into the call the animal control guy showed up so I ran out to show him where the rodent was – still hunched up by the tire. The AC guy – I’ll call him “Bubba” – got one of those poles with a loop on the end out of his truck, kneeled down beside my car and poked the groundhog with the pole. Now, Bubba had apparently forgotten to wear a belt that day, and we were treated to an alarming view of what I believe is commonly known as “the plumber syndrome”. Our friend the groundhog, however, was not happy with the poking and ran to the other side of the car – hunkering down beside the opposite tire. Bubba stood up, pulled up his jeans, walked to the other side of the car and began to poke again. Lil’ GH, again annoyed by the intrusion, ran back to his original position. Bubba stood up again, hiked his pants, stomped to the other side and poked. Lil’ GH moved. Hike pants, poke. Move. This went on for what seemed an eternity, and those of us in Lana’s office were now laughing so hysterically that we were all in tears. Finally, the groundhog got tired of this little game and ran out from under my car towards the next row of cars. Bubba looked under the car, looked again, stood up, hiked up his pants, and I guess assuming another job well done, drove away.
One of the women I work with had a fit saying “the groundhog ran under my car!”
“No it didn’t Lynn” I said, “Go back to work”.
An hour later, Lynn came into my office and said “I’m really sure that groundhog ran under my car. Will you go out with me to check?”
I rolled my eyes – “Sure I’ll go out with you – just to show you that darn thing isn’t under your car!” We walked out to her car – me thinking what a pain she was being and continuing to roll my eyes to show my annoyance – and looked under the car. Of course, the groundhog wasn’t there.
“Maybe it climbed in somehow” Lynn whined.
“How could it have climbed in your car?” I said “Get a grip on yourself!”
When she wouldn’t let up, I sighed and told her to open the door and see for herself.
Lynn gingerly unlocked the door and opened it – expecting, I’m sure, for the crazed groundhog to jump out and attack us. Of course, nothing was there.
“Maybe it’s under the hood?”
“For the love of Pete! Just pop the hood, Lynn!” I was really put out now.
Lynn popped the hood and I opened it, screamed and dropped it again with a bang. There was our friend the groundhog sitting on her engine block – probably finally happy that he could rest somewhere where people wouldn’t be poking him with a metal stick. Gingerly, I opened the hood again, hoping that I hadn’t smushed the poor thing into oblivion.
Now, while we were doing this outside, we had apparently attracted the attention of more than a few people in our office building with windows that looked over the back parking lot. Jim, the office maintenance man, came outside – laughing – and asked us what we were going to do now.
“I have no idea,” I said.
After some discussion, we decided that I should go inside and find something to entice/force the groundhog out of Lynn’s car. I went in, and came back outside with Lana for reinforcement. Between us we had a pitcher of water, a broom and a Little Debbie cupcake. The first idea was to put the Little Debbie down so the groundhog would know there was food about, and hopefully it would be so hungry that it would rush out of the engine. Unfortunately, groundhogs apparently have a more (or less?) sophisticated palate that we expected.
Next, we poured the pitcher of water onto the groundhog, but he just glared at us – as if to say “thanks for the bath – I’m not leaving!” Finally, we poked it with the broom, and he reluctantly climbed out of the engine. I shut the hood, and Lynn started stressing about how she would keep the thing from climbing in again.
“Just move your car,” I suggested. Lynn started her car and moved forward, very, VERY slowly. The groundhog, seeing that his shelter was in motion, started walking forward at about the same speed that Lynn was driving, and therefore, stayed under the car.
“Go faster, Lynn!” I yelled, and she punched the accelerator, squealing the tires, and leaving the poor little guy out in the open. He looked around for a minute, then turned, ran to the next line of cars and settled under yet another vehicle. This vehicle didn’t belong to anyone I knew, however, so I didn’t feel any responsibility to deal with the problem further. Sometime later that afternoon, I saw the poor thing running towards the woods – hopefully to find his mother and some food.
Isn’t life like that sometimes? All we’re looking for is a little quiet time in a safe place, and Bubba comes around and pokes at us with a broom handle. What the groundhog didn’t know was that the place he had chosen wasn’t really the safe place he had expected. The only true safe place for him was probably back in his hole, or wherever baby groundhogs live, with his mother to take care of him.
The only true safe place we have is in God’s care. We’re out in the great big world, making our way as best as we can, and we’re disappointed when things don’t turn out to be as great or as safe as we expected. Of course, this is bound to happen. But God’s love is a never-ending place of solace, if we are able to “let go and let God.” It’s had to relinquish control of our lives – and it’s hard for me to know sometimes what is the right kind of letting go and what is avoiding responsibility. So I keep plugging away, trying to “let go and let God” while trying to take care of the gifts He’s given me to take care of – my kids, my marriage, my job, just to name a few. Hopefully I will remember to run back to my safe place – in God’s care – when Bubba comes around.