When We Fly in Predictable Lines

The other night, I was giving a presentation at a meeting, sharing with a camp board how I could help them with an upcoming strategic plan. In the middle of my engaging and emotional PowerPoint, we heard what sounded like fireworks outside.

It was autumn, the camp season was over, so generally, the property was deserted.

I kept talking for a minute or two more, but then the board chair stopped me.

“What is that”? he asked the executive director of the camp.

“Oh, that’s Howard going after the geese,” the director responded. “There are nine of them—they are ruining the place.”

I must have looked a little shocked. I don’t normally hear such things when I am talking about strategic plans. Normally, we talk about competitive advantages, financial challenges, impact statements, and opportunities. Not so much about geese pooping on the lawn.

“We are trying to scare them away,” he said, and he winked at me.

Howard, the guy somewhere outside, was the maintenance man, always working on something—repairing cabin screens, painting trim, turning off the water for the season. Clearly, he also managed wildlife.

People nodded about the geese. A flock of geese can be pretty destructive. Forget what turkeys can do to your lawn—geese will destroy it. And they love nicely trimmed fields near large bodies of water—the very definition of most camps. The director might as well put out a giant “STOP HERE ON YOUR WAY SOUTH” billboard.

“Where is the sound coming from?” asked the board chair.

The seven or eight of us at the table pointed to the sound, but we all pointed in completely different directions.

We all laughed. It was clear we had no idea where Howard and the geese were—only that they were somewhere outside.

Such is life in rural new England. My own neighbor target shoots next to our backyard, and even though we are on a 6-acre parcel, it feels like he is right in my ear. On Saturdays, we will often hear him going on and on for an hour, “BANG BANG BANG pop BANG pop BANG!”

But do I know exactly where my neighbor is? No, I never go look. And just as funny about Howard and these camp geese was that we had no clue where the sounds were coming from. We pointed where we thought they were, all in different directions, but most of us had to be wrong.

It was just like in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy says to Toto at the forking yellow brick road, “Now which way do we go?”

And the scarecrow jumps in, “Pardon me….that way is a very nice way, “and when Dorothy looks down that path, he then points the other way and says “”It’s pleasant down that way too!”

Finally, just as Dorothy is starting to realize that a scarecrow is talking to her, Ray Bolger crosses his arms and points in both directions and says, “Of course, people do go both ways!”

This is how life is, isn’t it? We have many paths we can go down, a thousand different yellow brick roads through life. But which one do we follow?

I once heard someone say, “It doesn’t matter so much which way you go, which decision you make, but that you align with the direction you choose.”

So whenever friends ask me about “Should I take this job or that, should I go to Alaska or Jamaica, should I do X or do Y?” Or, should we put this goal in our strategic plan, or that one? I always tell them, it doesn’t really matter which you do out of a few good choices, just that you align with your decision and feel good about it. All will flow from there.

Just like the geese will eventually line up and fly away decisively south (or at least most of them will), just as they fly away in their distinctive V, so must we make our choices and align with those paths that we choose. That’s the very gift of grace, and the lines within it.