The Coveted Prize


Several years ago, our family visited the Rock of Gibraltar, a spectacular promontory that juts out into the Straits of Gibraltar on the southern coast of Spain. At our first stop, our youngest grandson, who had never seen the ocean before, paused and slowly scanned the horizon from one end to the other, before announcing with the wisdom of a two-year-old, “Big water.”


The “Rock,” as it is commonly called, is an amazing place. Sheer cliffs drop impressively into the sea, miles of tunnels, built during 200 + years of military occupation, have transformed it into a massive underground fortress designed to withstand an extended siege. But what our grandkids really wanted to see were the famous Rock apes. Turns out they are actually Barbary macaques, a kind of monkey, not apes at all, but no one really cared!


We only had one day to explore the Rock, so we hired a guide to show us all the sights. He warned us that we needed to be careful because although the apes may seem tame, in reality they are uncaged wild animals that usually tolerate tourists, but they don’t hesitate to bite if they are frightened. We assured him that we would be careful. Unfortunately for Cal, everyone forgot how animals are especially attracted to him.


When we finally got to the ape’s habitat, we were surprised how friendly and fearless they seemed. They came up to us, begged for food, jumped onto our shoulders, let us take their picture, and one of them (the real stupid one) sat on Cal’s shoulder and pooped all over him. Obviously, he was not super pleased and this is what we were referring to when we mentioned how much animals like Cal.


After that, Anne didn't particularly want her picture taken with the apes (can’t imagine why), so we walked back to the car together. Cal gallantly opened the car door and let Anne in. Unbeknownst to us, someone had been patiently waiting for just this moment and now swooped into the car and grabbed the coveted prize, our two-dollar bag of potato chips. Before either of us could react, the thief leaped out of the car, sprang to the roof, and swung up into the tree, where she sat, gloating and eating her contraband with gleeful satisfaction.


Cal thought about going after this rascally ape to get back our potato chips, but nature gave this animal some equipment that gave her the advantage, i.e. thumbs on all four of her appendages. Not only that, but Cal recognized how much she was enjoying those chips and decided they just weren’t that important to him, so he wimped out and contented himself with watching her obvious delight. Valor lost out to ‘smarts.’


The family was quite relieved with his decision.


As we thought about this event, we were impressed with the ape’s quiet, well-planned, and daring raid. She had great clarity and focus on her mission. She was both patient and daring in pursuit of her goal, willing to take a risk to obtain her dream.


Wow! What a great resiliency role model! What wonderful strengths to apply to our own lives and encourage our children to develop. Not becoming a skillful thief, of course, but patience, focus, and willingness to take a risk in the pursuit of worthy dreams.


Here’s to Failing Forward,


Calvert and Anne

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