Hungry Like a Wolf
A Cherokee elder was teaching his children about life. He said to them, "A terrible fight is occurring inside of me. It is a fight between two wolves. One is the wolf of joy, love, hope, kindness and compassion. The other is the wolf of fear, anger, cynicism, indifference and greed. The same fight is happening inside of you, and everyone else, too."
The children thought about it for a moment, and then one asked, "Which wolf will win?"
The elder replied, "Whichever one you feed.”
CEL Board President Roger Erskine shared this story at the Center’s Legacy Event in March. It was an inspiring evening where almost 200 guests came together in Gracious Space and enjoyed many sources of nourishment, including friendship, inspiration, and of course, the food from Ocean City – plate after plate of healthy vegetables swimming in delicate sauces.
The evening was a feast for the wolf of joy and love. We munched on the joyous connection with kindred spirits and filled our plates with the hope of changes we are making in the world. We gobbled up the honorees’ stories of overcoming obstacles to create happier lives and healthier communities. We swallowed their proofs that young people and passionate citizens can make positive and lasting change happen. The wolf of fear and anger left the event early, hungry and growling because it didn’t get so much as a crumb. But hardly anyone noticed it skulk off – we were too busy devouring the nourishment provided by the speakers.
- Dr. Francisco Guajardo, a teacher who lives and works in South Texas, reminded us to gather as many people as possible to make a difference. As the co-founder and director of Llano Grande Center for Research and Development, he has helped improve the graduation record from 18% to 80% at Edcouch-Elsa High School. He didn’t do it alone; he did it with hundreds of young people hungry for better opportunities. “One plus one equals three,” he said. “This is a room full of beauty and diversity where you can multiply your ability to make a difference.”
- Tanajah Mims shared how she got fed up with the violence in her hometown of Tacoma. “I used to think violence was something I had to get used to, but then I realized it’s not,” she declared. This simple but profound paradigm shift is impacting her life and her community right now. She was hired as an intern to lead the Youth Against Violence initiative, which spawned a series of dialogues sponsored by the honoree Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, and continues to work with the Community Foundation, in addition to her college coursework.
- Honoree Mary Flowers has been in the social services field for 25 years, and is much beloved by the communities she has touched. She reminded us that a Gracious Space for change can be as simple as a dinner table, open at all hours of the day, just like her mother used to provide.
- And Eric Liu, founder of the Guiding Lights Network and the third honoree this year, asked, “If not you, who? If not now, when?”
The speakers and award winners’ stories fed us all, because we are all like the Cherokee elder. The two wolves live inside each one of us. When we lose hope that justice will prevail or that our work matters, and instead stay home and watch TV, the wolf of cynicism licks his chops in greedy anticipation of our failure. Every group, community and organization hosts the two sparring wolves, too; kindness versus anger in the workplace, compassion versus indifference in our communities.
When leaders find themselves starting to lose hope, they can ground themselves in Gracious Space. Gracious Space is the container where joy, love, hope, kindness and compassion thrive. In Gracious Space, we can claim our shared values, develop strong relationships and move toward the challenges and creativity of the common good.
The National Academy of Sciences recently reported the first evidence that “cooperative behavior is contagious.” They said when people benefit from a kindness they pay it forward by helping others who were not originally involved, creating a cascade of cooperation.
This evidence affirms what we have known for a long time: Gracious Space is contagious. When you create it for yourself, you are creating it for everyone you touch. So the inspiration we received at the Legacy Event is infectious and communicable; the effects of that evening are already spreading to others who were not there.
Every day you will have opportunities to feed the wolf of joy and love. If we each do this as a daily practice, the wolf of fear and anger and cynicism will slowly fade, and finally become a distant memory.
(“Two Wolves” story from a little book titled, How many people does it take to make a difference? Published by Compendium, Incorporated. No author indicated)