By Lyle R. Hill
“Read the sign for me, Grandpa. C’mon, Grandpa, what does it say? Please, Grandpa.” Jake loves the zoo. It’s probably his favorite place on earth.
“Okay, little guy. The sign says that the animal we’re looking at is an African impala and that it can run very fast. Not only can it run fast, it is also a great jumper. In fact, the sign says that the impala can cover a distance of up to 30 feet and reach a height of 12 feet in a single leap.”
“Is that really good, Grandpa?” Jake asks.
“Yes it is, Jake. That’s very high … twice as high as Grandpa … and very far … as far as that trash can way over there,” I said, pointing to a waste receptacle about 25 feet from where we were standing.
“Grandpa,” he began, after a few minutes of silence, “if that impala can jump so high and so far, why doesn’t he jump over this fence?”
Once again, the little guy had come up with the big question. The fence surrounding the impala compound was only about five feet high at best. And while there was a bit of a moat between the ground the impala was standing on and the outer edge of the pen, the total distance between what would have been a perfect launch point and total freedom couldn’t have been more than 15 feet or so.
“Why does he stay in there, Grandpa? Why doesn’t he jump out and run away?”
Now, usually, I’m as good as anyone at answering kid-type questions. Having raised three of my own and occasionally assisting with the grandkids, I’ve gotten quite good at answering all kinds of questions. This time, though, I didn’t have a response. But I knew that at this point in history, the entire part of the human race known as “Grandfathers” would be irreparably damaged forever if I didn’t come through, so I looked into those eyes of wonderment and responded. “Jake, he doesn’t jump because the zookeeper told him not to.”
“Grandpa, that’s ‘bediculous,” he shot back with a bit of a giggle.
Just in time, one of the roving attendants walked by. I summoned him over and put the question to him.
“Well,” the soft-spoken gentleman began, “the impala will never jump unless he can see where he’s going to land. The pen is arranged in such a way that the elevation of the ground and the strategic placement of the shrubbery keeps the impala from clearly seeing the other side of the fence, so he will never attempt to jump free.”
“You see, Jake, people are just like the animals,” I said. “There are many, many people who will never take a chance to find out how far they can go because they can’t clearly see where it is they will land. The fear of failure holds a lot of people back. They stay in their self-imposed cages their entire lives. I think this is particularly true in the business world.”
We left the impala exhibit and began walking toward the next caged area. I knew I had lost him with my overdone analogy, but sometimes he surprises me with his ability to grasp abstract ideas.
“Are people really just like animals?”
“In some ways they are, Jake, but you’ll understand it all better when you get older.”
“Read me the sign on that cage, Grandpa,” the little guy said, pointing to the pen we had just reached.
“The donkey,” I began reading, “is sure-footed, very stubborn, stands about four feet high at the shoulders and is commonly referred to as an ass.”
“Are some people like him too, Grandpa?”
“Ready for that ice cream I promised you, Jake?”
Lyle Hill has 50 years of experience in and around the auto glass industry. At one time he operated 71 auto glass retail shops and a wholesale auto glass distribution business. He is currently the managing director of Glass.com®, an information portal that connects those selling glass products and services with purchasers.
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