Ukrainians hear the call of the wild

Sometimes life is so unfair. So unfair. And what are you going to do about it?

There are really only two choices—give up or go on.

Just a month ago, the people of Ukraine were busy building a government of the people. Democratic processes are messy, but the vision of a better life for the next generation was compelling the nation forward in a peaceful manner.

Then Russia invaded, for no greater reason than that it wanted to and it could. The assumption by many was that Ukraine would quickly give up. But they didn’t.

In Jack London’s, “The Call of the Wild,” Buck—a St. Bernard/Scotch Shepherd mix—was enjoying the good life in California with a wealthy landowner. He had the run of the estate and a cozy spot by the fireplace when he wanted it. The book is fictional, but it narrates through the very real time period of the 1890s Gold Rush in Canada and Alaska. Big dogs were needed to pull sleds over an unforgiving and frozen landscape. Demand was high, and supply was scarce.

Buck was stolen and then sold.

Unexpected cruelty is disorienting. Chained and captive, Buck was introduced to his new life by a dog-breaker and a club. “A dozen times he charged, and as often the club broke the charge and smashed him down.”

Some dogs never got back up. They weren’t able to transition into a life of violence and hardship, but Buck learned how to first survive.

Russia is carrying a big stick and bringing death and destruction to Ukraine. But the Ukrainians keep getting back up. They didn’t start a war with a super power, but they’re learning how to survive one.

Buck adapted to the life of pulling a sled over a frozen tundra and the kill-or-be-killed challenges from the other dogs. He adapted, and then he thrived. He became the lead dog and was able to trust the kindness of a human again and feel loyalty toward him.

After being stunned into survival mode, the Ukrainians are adapting to their new reality. They, too, face kill-or-be-killed situations. And every day, their fighting spirit grows stronger despite the formidable opponent before them. They’re showing what courage and leadership look like when faced with such an unfair attack.

Eventually, Buck finds freedom. He answers the call of the wild—the call of a wolf pack—and fights for and takes his rightful place with them. He’s free and finally, fully alive.

Hardship produces resiliency, but does resiliency require hardship?

A Quinnipiac University poll asked American adults what they would do if they were in the same position as the Ukrainians. Would they stay and fight or leave the country? Almost four in ten said they would leave the country.

There are 250 million adults living in the United States. Imagine 100 million fleeing if our nation was attacked.

This doesn’t square with the history of our people. We declared independence from a powerful monarchy and went on to finish two world wars that we did not start.

It’s just one poll, and polls can be wrong. But many of us do see a shift in our country. In the past, forced self-reliance produced an independent and fighting spirit. Now, big government breeds dependency and helplessness.

Over the years, our country has had a bit of a Wild West image. And it’s served us well. But now instead of willingly riding shotgun, too many have fallen asleep in the stagecoach and would not know how to survive, adapt and thrive from the surge that comes when meeting a threat.

The last chapter hasn’t been written on the Ukraine – Russia war. But no matter how it ends, the people of Ukraine have answered the call of the wild. They’ve become fully alive and know—will always know—what they’re meant to be.

Free.

Assess risk, while protecting your freedom, this Thanksgiving Day

Image by Shutterstock.

The Pilgrims landed in November of 1620. After a harsh winter and challenging growing season, they gave thanks a year later for their survival with a celebratory feast—the first Thanksgiving.

But it’s a bigger story than that.

During our 2020 global pandemic, it’s helpful to remember why they made a dangerous journey across an ocean to a new land.

The Pilgrims were fleeing government oppression.

King James enforced religious persecution in early 1600s England with fines and imprisonment. The Pilgrims fled, first to Holland, and then to this country.

Government officials are recommending that Thanksgiving dinners be limited to those who reside within your households. That could mean a one-person meal if you live alone or a five-person meal for a couple with children.

Considering that the COVID-19 virus is surging in Iowa, this may seem reasonable.

But the reasonable-sounding doesn’t always hold common sense.

Nobody understands the dangers of this virus better than health care professionals. It’s why doctors and nurses wear N95 masks and personal protective equipment while on the job.

Doctors and nurses work hard, but they don’t work 24/7. At some point the shift ends, and they go home. 

Then, they do their best to follow the same guidelines that the rest of us try to follow. Wear masks. Social distance. Wash hands.   

And yet, the Mayo Clinic Health System in the Midwest just reported that 905 staff members have contracted the virus within the last two weeks. A full 93% caught it while out in their community—not at work.

When health care professionals—who follow safety protocols—test positive from community spread, it doesn’t seem logical to believe that the rest of us have any substantial control over this virus.  

In the meantime, people must still put food on the table and a roof over their head. Many will go to work and interact with the public on Wednesday, Nov. 25 and Friday, Nov. 27, but are discouraged from being with their loved ones on Thursday, Nov. 26.  

Senseless.

The Pilgrims found the rulings of King James unacceptable. They didn’t want to give up their freedoms. A two-month journey across a vast ocean in a 100-foot boat to an unknown land was a risk they were willing to take.

If you’re elderly or have underlying health conditions, stay home and stay safe. If you personally feel that staying home is best for you and your family this Thanksgiving Day, follow your instincts and stay put.

But for many, a celebration to connect with family members is sorely needed after a long, hard year. Assess the risk.

A recent study from Indiana University, and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, looked at the COVID-19 fatality rate by focusing on community populations. The study did not include young children who, for the most part, are not at risk (under 12) or those who are institutionalized (nursing home populations.) It wanted to find out what the risk was for the average person living in a community. This study placed the overall COVID-19 fatality rate at well below one percent—just 0.26%.

That’s still too many. But it’s similar to the fatality rate of other illnesses, like cardiovascular disease.   

Will some people die from COVID-19 because they attended a Thanksgiving dinner? Yes.

And some will die from a massive heart attack while enjoying a second piece of pumpkin pie. 

But 330 million will live.

Measuring risk, while protecting our freedom, is something we must all calculate.   

Not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day. The Pilgrims understood that.   

Happy Thanksgiving.