Someone close to me awoke from a dream that left him dazed. You know the kind of dream where something inside of you knows there are bigger truths reflected during the dream. He is not a dream interpretation type of guy, and yet something about this one, he had to share with me, a life is speaking to you type of gal. Here is the dream…
He is back home in Washington, DC probably during the 1980s. He is a preteen. He is running through one of the back allies behind the rowhouses. Most of the rowhouses have gated driveways, which is unusual for rowhouses that often had just enough space to park your car just up to the back door with maybe a patch of grass to the left or right.
Suddenly there was a tiger chasing him! This tiger was hungry and on his heels. His first strategy was to give the tiger something to eat other than him. So, he threw his treasure at the tiger — gummy candy! If you know my friend, you know this is his favorite thing. The tiger stopped briefly, looked at him deeply, ate the gummy candy, and began pursuing him again.
He decided to jump the fence, which you did not do unless you knew the owner(s). In this instance, the owner was a man who did not like kids jumping his fence. Out of desperation and looking for help to throw off the tiger, he reluctantly jumped the fence. When he did, his neighbor surprised him and immediately, without reservation helped him. He too threw something at the tiger that the tiger consumed. This tiger again, slowed down, ate what was thrown at him, but this time the tiger disappeared. The neighbor looked at my friend and said, “the tiger needed both of us to disappear.”
After this dream, I was left with the question (quest I own) of what is our tiger?
In this dream, the tiger is what made both elder and youth behave differently and take courageous action. The tiger is what brought two generations together. The tiger is what made each give generously from their treasures. The tiger is what made fences disappear and instant collaboration possible.
We have seen tigers in the past. After the tiger of 9/11, the United States came together in unity after an unthinkable attack and tragedy. I remember the famous picture of Congress united on the steps of the Capitol. Many felt the sentiment that this was no photo opportunity. There was solidarity to face the tiger together. The tiger consumed our solidarity and for a while, and it left.
In 2007, shortly after relocating to Georgia, I remember seeing the tiger of drought. I remember seeing people gathered on the steps of the capitol praying for rain to come. The tiger left and in 2008 much-needed rain came. It seems like the tiger loves to eat solidarity and collaboration.
Many of us know the tiger that comes when the death of a loved one happens. Families and community move beyond difference and conflict to feed the tiger the range of love and grief that ensues during the transition of life. Many lament, “none of that stuff matters when faced with such a loss.” A mentor once told me that grief is love with nowhere to go. Well, the tiger consumes it, supps on it and as it does, conflict is still there but it loses its power.
Worldwide, the number of people who died because of COVID19 is 1,396,416 (nCoV2019.live). This number does not reflect the people who transitioned during the time of a global pandemic when many wish they could gather to mourn, collectively grieve, and be with one another. What are we learning? What are the essential treasures we held in our pockets and did not realize the value? What is in our rear-view mirror that appeared large and now becomes smaller and smaller until it is out of sight, like the tiger?
What is our tiger?
In 2020 we have faced several tigers. The tigers were always present, but perhaps the roar felt as though it was off in the distance. In 2020, it was on the heels of 189 countries through the spread of COVID19. The tiger was in our phones, devices, and airways as it showed the horrific deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. There was little escaping the tiger, it was everywhere and even traveled internationally.
In 2019, a teen activist for climate change traveled to New York via sailboat to awaken us to the immediate need for major efforts to slow down the impact of climate change. Certainly, the tiger visited Greta at some point, it seems that instead of feeding it, she rode it to New York and famously shared she fed the movement her youth. This sentiment is shared by Amariyanna Copeny (Little Miss Flint) who is best known for raising awareness about Flint Michigan’s water crisis and the need for support to underprivileged children across the United States.
And yet, we are still divided about whether tigers are real and if people are really seeing tigers or are the tigers manufactured to control us and stimulate reaction rather than response. It could be a plausible argument if you have never felt the breath of the tiger on your back or an intense flight response radiate through your entire being, or the weight of a huge and agile animal at your feet, or, or, or… Would the neighbor have welcomed my friend across his fence if he had not witnessed the pursuit of the tiger and that my friend had already given everything of value to subdue it?
What would happen if we hunted the tiger instead of the tiger catching us off guard? What would happen if we got close enough to see the evidence of the tiger? What if we hunted the tiger, learned about its habitat, followed its scent, markings, and footprints? What if we became curious about why the tiger arrives, what it comes to teach, and why it disappears? What if we also got curious about the treasure that subdues the tiger and gives us time to explore how to come together?
Would we find its secrets? What would we learn about its diet and tastes — its insatiable appetite for our individual treasures, solidarity, and collaboration? What if we learned we were able to hold the transformative space of the pursuit without being pursued?
What is our collective tiger?
Isn’t it interesting that we can live in rowhouses and literally hear through the walls and not know our neighbors? What will cause us to jump the fences of our time? What will move us over, around, and through the boundaries that we hold out of fear, conditioning, or avoidance? What will allow us to see our neighbors with new eyes? What will cause allyship in off-limit places? What will transform our view and relationship of resources as essential to someone in need?
Do we know what is in our pockets? Sometimes we do not know our treasure until it parts from our hands. Does the tiger want our individual treasure and collective compassion? Will that keep the tiger at bay