Wake Up Call
Written by Captain Liz Blusiewicz
“Let’s go look at the zebras,” my six–year–old friend Adeline said as she adjusted her facemask and took me by the hand. It was the first time she had been back to the Nashville Zoo since it closed due to COVID–19. It was a hot summer day as we navigated the newly converted one-way paths. Did I mention it was hot? Unable to see out of my fogged–up glasses, I decided to pull my mask down from my nose to inhale some fresh air. Adeline looked up at my indecent exposure and said, “That’s not how you’re supposed to wear it, Liz!” I could feel her concern with every word, the kind of concern only a six-year-old could have when they see an adult breaking—more like bending— the rules. Under this intense, soon-to-be 1st grader peer-pressure, I pulled my mask back up over my nose and waited. I never thought much about distances till recently, but my friend Adeline assured me we were exactly six feet away from the family at the fence. We waited till it was our turn to see the zebras.
When it was our turn, we peered across the wooden fence to see the zebras. They were doing what Zebras do: walking around, eating grass—the usual. They seemed to be totally unaware of the changes that were happening outside their fenced in area. They didn’t seem to notice the new faces hidden behind the quilted array of socially accepted face coverings. They just kept on eating their grass; all was still normal for these zebras. As we turned to leave the Zebras, we saw a perfect picnic area. It was hot, so we found a table in the shade and at 10 am sharp it was time for lunch.
As we sat down to eat, my friend Adeline said, “Liz, sit next to me; here is my hand wipe. You can use it!” Gee thanks… I thought to myself as I took the gray, tattered, semi–sticky wipe to disinfect my hands. We ate our PBJ’s and drank some water. Suddenly, Adeline asked her mom if she could go look at the zebras one more time. Her mom said, “Sure, I can see you from here; go ahead.” Adeline looked across what seemed to be an ocean of mulch to the zebra fence. “I can go by myself?” A sense of awe and fear filled the question. “Sure!” said mom in the most confident and encouraging tone. “Take your brother with you.” There they went, Adeline and her four–year-old brother Caleb, hand–in–hand across the sea of mulch. Both were leaving the reach of safety, each step leading them further and further away from mom. Adeline, aware that this new independence came with responsibility, made sure her brother stayed six feet away from others who were peering into the fence.
Within 30 seconds something happened. Adeline came bolting back across the mulch, no brother in hand. Poor Caleb was left in the dust of his determined sister. What just happened? I wondered, bewildered at the turn of events. My friend Jeniffer Dake straddled the picnic bench and opened her arms to embrace Adeline. “Look how cute your dress is!” She exclaimed with excitement in her voice. Adeline, wanting to smile, turned her face away and began to shed her dress. I should have mentioned, Adeline and Caleb were wearing their Amish outfits to the zoo. During the beginning of the Pandemic they spent ten weeks in Pennsylvania with their Amish friends.
As Adeline ripped off her plain modest Amish dress, she exposed the bright colored zebra dress underneath. What a contrast! She was still upset, but at least you could tell she was a lot cooler. “Turn for a picture, Adeline. Let me get your cute dress to send to …” Adeline turned to look at the zebra pen. “Addie, Caleb is beside you, let’s get a picture of both of you.” I leaned back in on my bench waiting for the tears to come. It’s only a matter of time, I thought, until the tantrum will start. More people were stopping in our area for lunch. We were not the only ones on the brink of meltdowns. PBJs and apple slices emerged from other familes’ backpacks, in hopes to divert attention from the heat and annoying facemasks. My attention went back to the photo shoot. Jeniffer lifted her phone to capture Adeline and Caleb just as Adeline turned to face away from the camera.
In this moment, my friend Jeniffer seemed completely untouched by the looming tantrum. She remained upbeat and excited for her children’s picture. In the moment, I realized Jeniffer was completely okay with whatever happened, meltdown or no meltdown. I could sense from her the peace of being back at the zoo! Amazed, I continued to watch these events unfold. Jeniffer embraced Adeline and the laughs became contagious as people looked in our direction. This is real life! I thought as the laughs turnd into screams of delight.
I was witnessing firsthand the freedom of choice between two stories we often tell ourselves: I am lovable, versus I am unlovable. I was watching a six–year-old learn from her mother that she is loveable. I was witnessing a foundation of identity being laid down with delicate authority. Jeniffer taught me that words have meaning. The words no one can hear deep inside our minds are the cement that holds the foundation of who we are together. These words have power, I thought about this as I bit into my PBJ.
You might be wondering how an officer in the middle of a pandemic has time to visit the zoo with a six-year-old friend. Well, the story I tell myself (sometimes I’m reminded to tell myself) is that I am lovable. I am loved by my Savior; I am loved by an ARMY!
In order to shape the foundation of our lives, we need to be connected to our Savior. We need to know ourselves well enough to be able to “tap out” and rest! We all can work ourselves to the point of total frustration. Usually, that frustration takes itself out on those we love the most. Something I saw that day with my little friends, Adeline and Caleb, is sometimes when we are hurt, tired, or upset we project those feelings on the ones around us. When my friend Jeniffer saw that projection and decided she would not accept it, my little friend Adeline avoided a meltdown.
Don’t we all wish we could stay six feet away from our own meltdown? Maybe we don’t call them meltdowns or tantrums, but we all have them … hasty email replies (oops REPLY ALL), the sharp look at our loved one, that beep at the red light. I am grateful for people in my life who reject my projections.
As we finished our walk around the zoo, we came to the flamingos. It was quiet and calm. (I think facemasks make people talk less.) As we were preparing to pass the flamingos, out of nowhere screeched a loud, “LALALA LOOOOLOOOLOOO.” I jumped and turned to see what flamingo was projecting his emotions in such an awful way. These flamingos are angry today!
But as I turned to look, there was my friend Jeniffer: “LALALA LOOOOLOOOLOOO.” “Dude, what the heck?” I said, as I looked at the crowd of people peering from above their face masks. Jeniffer laughed and said, “What? I like to wake up the flamingos!” I turned to little Adeline to see what she thought of her mom’s wild, wake up flamingo call. Little Adeline beamed with excitement. Maybe we all need to be bold enough to shout our own wake up calls: “LALALA LOOOOLOOOLOOO.” Bold enough to wear our Amish clothes to the zoo. Bold enough to “tap out.”
“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Eph. 5:14 NIV)
It’s okay to “wake up” and avoid our own personal meltdowns, maybe we all need to take a trip to the zoo in the midst of COVID–19. “LALALA LOOOOLOOOLOOO!”
Story and pictures used with Mom’s aka Jeniffer Dake’s permission.
Find out more about my friend @jenifferdake.com