Taking care of monkeys

Friday, December 9, 2005

Do you ever have days when the world seems to be resting squarely on your shoulders?

You know what I'm talking about.

The tension builds. The frustration mounts. In trying to deal with six balls in the air and a dozen revolving plates on limber sticks, you start to make mistakes. The balls go flying off on their own, and plates start crashing to the floor.

Well, that's what my life has been like for several days.

Just when I think I'm about to resolve this problem or that situation, another monkey drops down from the florescent light fixture in my office.

You know about the monkey theory of management, don't you?

The monkey theory holds that just about anyone who walks into your office has a monkey on his shoulder. The visitor intends to leave the monkey on your desk. If you're not careful, this theory maintains, you will soon be the sole caretaker of an office full of rambunctious and hungry monkeys who haven't been toilet trained, if you get my drift.

The lesson of the monkey theory is that good managers don't let the monkeys get comfy in their offices. Instead, good managers make sure anyone with a monkey on his shoulder when he comes in has at least one monkey with him when he leaves.

Under the monkey theory, good managers are not zookeepers.

But in our personal lives, we sometimes find ourselves with a whole menagerie to tend -- not just monkeys, but cats, dogs, rabbits, an odd rooster or two and, if you're having a really terrible day, a boa constrictor.

So there I was, wondering why I had been chosen to be Chief Pooper Scooper of the Week.

Instinctively, I looked in earnest for someone to blame.

Job, the Bible says, wondered why God would let the devil toy with him. But figured God knew best.

I wondered why, with 6 billion other choices, give or take, God was bothering with me.

Sometimes when you talk to God, you don't get the answer you expected. Instead of getting a good reason for my misery, I found myself reading an article about this year's hurricane victims whose prospects for the future, on a scale of one to 10, is about minus seven. Homes destroyed. Jobs gone. I read this article while sitting in my recliner in my cozy family room just off a well-stocked kitchen where my wife was making the world's tastiest pork tenderloin.

Later I saw that victims of the recent earthquakes in parts of the world so remote that I don't know how to pronounce the names of the towns -- victims whose lives, but little else, were spared -- face death from exposure to harsh winter weather now that their homes are reduced to rubble and they are forced to exist in makeshift shelters, if they have shelter at all.

You know what?

Feeding monkeys is pretty tame compared to floods and earthquakes.

You know what else?

Pity parties are never any fun, least of all for the guest of honor.

And you know what else?

There are good and decent folks right here in our community who are dealing with their own personal disasters. Without help from the rest of us, they will have a bleak Christmas.

There are ways to help. Several charitable programs are striving to bring some cheer.

I commend to your consideration both the Toybox program for children and the Christmas for the Elderly program as worthy efforts to eliminate some monkeys.

Maybe you could help?

R. Joe Sullivan is the editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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