Lessons from A Polish Pup

The process of flying from Vienna to Berlin on Wednesday, December 28th sapped a good 3 years off my life. 
My parents and I spent four days in Vienna for Christmas, and then planned to go onwards to Berlin (with an jut to Poland for two days) for the durander of the holiday season. 

Flying from Vienna to Berlin on Wednesday, December 28th is a long, drawn out story on it’s own ( one that I actually wrote, but then deleted after it began to approach 600 words and the whole, you know, it not being the point of this blog post).

Just know we finally go to Berlin. 

Time: 17:35.

After grabbing bags, we swiveled our way to the EuropeCar desk and engaged a very serious, dry German man in a conversation within which my father attempted to speckle in humor (all of which was promptly ignored). 

Because of plane delays and other shenanigans, we reached Dwie Wieże, our quaint and cozy apartment situation in Międzyzdroje, Poland, 2 hours after I had said we would. 

Ergo, we were met with a firm and securely locked gate and no way of communicating with the owner. 

Before the gravity and relative hopelessness of yet another unintended voyage barricade had begin to set in, suddenly we heard a bark resound through the empty peaceful streets and a man stepped out from the warmth of a Bed and Breakfast next door with a dog at his heels.  

He motioned us over and asked in a husky, Polish accented English: 

“Are you the guests of my neighbor?”

The undoubtedly disheveled travel-weary looks on our faces fortunately did not have the effect to turn the man away, and he welcomed us into his home for tea and freshly baked Polish cake while he called his neighbor to come and check us in. 

The dog was called Yoko, named after the Japanese multimedia artist and peace activist, and I cannot impart to you the majesty of the personality of this dog. 

Instantly she ran to me and thrust her face into my hands, resoundingly licking as much as she could get her tongue on and curling her body to encircle my leg with as much of her fluffy surface area as she could muster. It was as if my body were the negative end of a magnet to which her entire being was drawn to, she had absolutely no reservations concerning what kind of person I was; Yoko couldn’t have cared less if I wanted to be loved by her, because it was going to happen anyways. 

I sank to my knees and hugged her firmly, letting her thick, fluffy face bury itself into my neck and behind my hair, feeling the warmth of her oscillating body, too excited to be stilled, chase away the cold of the evening and the frustrations of the day. 

She radiated pure light; this creature contained no trace of selfishness. No trace of malintent. No trace of evil. 

I felt healed by her. The day had been long and intense, and I had lost faith in my ability to plan and travel well. But yet the warmth of Yoko drove away all of it. All of the disappointment and all of the bickering. 

As she wagged her way around to my parents to impart her love upon them, too, I looked at her fully. I looked at what she represented and symbolized. 

People to her were not guilty until proven innocent. 

They were opportunities with which to exchange love and excitement for life. 

Before you jump to your feet and shout, “No Josie! Don’t go hug every stranger you can find!” and shake your fist at my seemingly declared ignorance of the evil that does exist in the world, I beg you to not misunderstand me. 

I’m not advocating this literal approach, I understand that there are acceptable things that dogs can do that Josie cannot. 

It’s what Yoko’s actions symbolized that were so important. 

I believe in my gut instinct, I believe in my ability to subconsciously feel out situations and judge the status of safety in each of them. I have a good head on my shoulders, and I’m smart when it comes to being safe. 

But I’m not afraid. 

The draw towards traveling for me is not so that I can see places. It’s not so that I can check something off a bucket list that I can present to other people and force them to acknowledge how cool I am. 

I enjoy traveling as a means to meet people and to experience their life, and I want to make people feel the same way that I felt by Yoko

Blank slate. 

She didn’t look at me as a stranger, that I needed to win her trust before I could have her affection. That I needed to prove myself before she would accept me. 

She treated me as if I were completely pure and completely innocent of any malintent. She gave me a blank slate, to be whoever I wanted to be, to start fresh and to breath in the beauty of non judgement. 

I firmly believe that the way we treat people can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I am treated as a problem or a burden, a little subconscious part of me whispers into my actions, “why not be an issue if that’s what they expect?”. 

If I am treated warmly and with copious amounts of green tea and freshly baked Polish cake, that same little subconscious part of me whispers into my actions, “the world is good to you, let’s be good to it”. 

It’s smart to be attentive. It’s smart to be wary of situations or people that create a discomfort within the gut instinct. It’s smart to be observant. 

But the way that we treat people can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. And the way that we treat people begins with the way that we think about them. 

Why do we choose to function within a cycle of hatred over people we don’t understand? Ignorance is a choice. It’s choosing to surround yourself with only like-minded people who don’t challenge your way of doing life. 

That’s what blows my mind over what Donald Trump is advocating so hard for, and what people are responding so well to

He doesn’t know the people that he is inciting so much hate towards. And yet he’s encouraging others to join him in his ignorant and blind hatred. And they are! 

If we think of people as if they are problems and burdens then inevitably we are going to treat them as such. And then what’s the point of them acting differently? Suddenly we are stuck. In a cycle of blind, unfounded hatred and distrust. 

Let’s give each other a blank slate. 

And when we mess up, which is going to happen, let’s give each other a blank slate. 

And when we fail each other, which is going to happen, let’s give each other a blank slate. 

And when we hurt each other, which is going to happen, let’s give each other a blank slate. 

It’s not just forgiveness. It’s letting people return to innocence. It’s non judgement. It’s simply letting people change and develop in the exact same way as you hope people will let you do. 

The more that you understand and know someone, the more you love them. 

Peace and Blessings,

Josie

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