I can think of a handful of movies that my kids watched so many times the VHS tapes actually broke – The Land Before Time, Angels In The Outfield and Old Yeller. I found Old Yeller for $2 at a second hand store and thought it would be fun to share a blast from my past with them. I am not sure why I thought this was such a good idea considering how much I dreaded watching Travis shoot his best friend and companion. The first time my boys and I watched it together, the sound of the gun made us all jump and there wasn’t a dry eye left in the room. Despite the tragic ending, the boys were fascinated with the movie and watched it over and over and over. For emotional support, they would call on me to share in the final heart break moment. Every time, like clockwork, we would all cry. However, overtime, I started to notice, that instead of the boys watching Old Yeller, it had become more about watching mom cry.
One night, as I sat there for the 100th time. . .
watching Travis raise his gun and pull the trigger, I found myself thinking, “all right, all ready, just shoot the dumb dog, so I can get back to making dinner.” It was in that moment, I realized we had all grown accustomed and accepting of Old Yeller’s fate.When did it change? It seemed our numbed, desensitized state had just happened over night. In truth it had happened over weeks and months and I couldn’t pinpoint when it started. We eventually named our journey from sadness to “oh well, not a big deal”, Old Yeller Syndrome.
I started to wonder, what other things had we just accepted because it now seemed normal or even expected?
Did we really have to run around like crazy people in the mornings before school?
What about the portion sizes they serve at restaurants? Is that one meal or should it actually be two?
- Should we accept a lower standard for how we treat each other?
- Can we really expect our kids not to bully each other when our political leaders do it every day?
- When did it become okay for us to spew hate or disrespect one another on TV or social media?
- Are reality shows, really reality?
- Should we just take drugs instead of taking responsibility for our health?
- Do we really believe that texting should just replace picking up the phone, or even better, meeting with someone face to face?
- Do we really not have enough time for each other?
It was exhausting to think about! It started to feel daunting to even determine, when did unacceptable behaviors and attitudes shift to, “Oh well, that’s just the way it is?”
Unfortunately, there are no red flags or warning signs when you start to develop Old Yeller Syndrome. You won’t froth at the mouth and growl. You might just wake up one day and ask, “How did life get so complicated, negative and stressful?” The good news is you don’t have to suffer the same fate as Old Yeller. With honest reflection and evaluation, we can all remember what it is we really want, expect and deserve out of life. We can challenge the status quo, agree to disagree without hate, separate from the things that make us feel bad and begin to focus on what is good. There is still so much good in the world! What if we all made a choice to lend a hand, a smile and encouragement to someone. Every day in countless ways we have opportunities for personal growth and to serve others. We can step beyond ourselves and make contributions that build our nation and each other.