Life has a way of teaching us lessons, even in bizarre situations.  Can I share with you a story about one particularly ridiculous event that taught me a little something about running away from fear?

Lester and Meredith Miller had the prettiest home on the block.  It was a two-story brick home built in the early 1900s.  The front porch was huge, made of concrete and had brick columns and a brick rail around it.  Two giant maple trees in the front yard that made the perfect shade for breaks in the summer.  Their front yard was separated from the side yard and back yard by a white picket fence that was about three feet tall.

Mr. Miller took very good care of everything he owned.  His white hair was never out of place, his button down shirt and slacks were always pressed, his car always looked new and his lawn was like freshly vacuumed carpet .  He would speak soft, but look stern at all times.

Mrs. Miller would often surprise us with treats.  It might be lemonade one day, cookies the next.  She did this often and not just when her grandkids were around.  My mother says watching the Millers and me interact made her think a lot of Dennis the Menace and the Wilsons.

The Millers had several grandchildren, but the one I enjoyed playing with most was Donnie.  Donnie was a year older than me and into the same things.  He liked to ride bikes, build forts and play with Hot Wheels and GI Joes.

I would follow him and do what he chose to do at any given moment.  When we didn’t ride bikes, we played in my front or back yard or on that giant shaded front porch of his grandparents’ home.  This day though, he invited me to play in their backyard.

I hadn’t been past that white picket fence before and had never stepped foot in their backyard.  There were reasons.  Mr. Miller was crazy about his grass, so playing on the lawn was forbidden, but especially the part of the lawn to the side and back part of the home.

Another reason I didn’t venture back there was that they had a German Shepherd of good size, that barked loudly and intimidated me.  I loved dogs, but wouldn’t even go near the fence.  I don’t know if it was his demeanor, his frightening and deep bark or his size but he terrified me.

The dog was inside the home and I made Donnie promise to not let him out.  Donnie teased me about being scared of him.  He agreed though and we ventured through the gate, down the concrete walkway of the side yard until we reached the back of the house.

We played for a bit before Donnie mentioned that he wanted a drink and asked if I wanted something.  I turned down his offer as I watched him walk up the back porch steps and grab the door handle.  Something about the look he gave me clued me in that he had an ulterior motive and was not simply quenching his thirst.

He slowly turned the handle and I said directly, “Donnie, don’t let the dog out!  Please!”  My heart began to thump loudly under my white t-shirt, I thought I could even hear it beating.

With sort of a snicker, he insisted “I’m not going to, I promise.”  Just then, he turned the handle the rest of the way, opened the door and sure enough… HELL was UNLEASHED.

I immediately took off for the front yard.  The dog must have instinctively known my fear of him, because his nose was no sooner through the cracked opening of that screen door that he was in a dead gallop for me.  I must have looked like those old cartoons where they try to take off really fast and their feet just whirl in a circle under them before darting away.

That is as fast as I’ve probably ever run.  My mind was racing too. I remember thinking several things in those few seconds.  One; If he catches me, he will surely tear me limb from limb.  Two; I’m not going to have time to fool with the latch on the gate.  Three; What a jerk Donnie is.

I was headed in a straight path for the white picket fence.  With that drooling monster behind me and just at my heels I made it to within a couple feet of that fence when I went into a head first dive up and over the fence.  Immediately my face slammed into the opposite side of the fence and my hands caught handfuls of grass as my feet still hung in the air above me.

The blue leather superman belt I was wearing had snagged on one of the points of the fence as I attempted to fly over.  In an unbelievable circumstance, my superman dive had ended with me hanging upside down from the fence by a superman belt.  The spear from one individual post actually went down (or up as the case was) one pant leg.

The dog was licking my face between the gaps in the pickets.  I could not climb off or unhang myself.  I could hear Donnie in the background laughing.  My screams for help brought the attention of Mrs. Miller first, who came outside.

The ruckus had also pulled the attention of my mother, older brother and his friends. The laughter of others could be heard as well.  The dog even seemed to be laughing.  Two people didn’t find this humorous at all.  Mrs. Miller and me.

My mom and brother ran over and lifted me off the picket fence.  I was traumatized and just wanted to go home.  I went into the house lifting my shirt up to see a good lengthy scrape where the fence had got me.  I’m lucky it didn’t pierce me.

My biggest hurt though didn’t come from any physical injury.  I noticed that my blue leather superman belt was torn nearly all the way through, I let the tears fall.

I know Mrs. Miller was concerned and worried that my mother might be upset about the event.  I’m sure they had a conversation about it.  I’m also sure my mother was totally understanding and all was well.

So often we run from things that scare us, and it’s in the running that we are most stressed, conflicted, and so sure of our poor outcome.

My running from that dog seemed totally logical, but in reality it was the worst thing I could have done. I had built up the fear of him so much, my mind accepted it as reality.  Donnie knew the dog was friendly and that my fear was unfounded.  That’s why he thought it would be funny.

It’s okay to be afraid, but be afraid while facing your German Shepherd. Running from fear only causes it to pursue you and your fear will increase until you do something irrational.  In my case leaping over picket fences and getting licked, literally, by my fear.  Don’t be licked by fear!

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