Parable of the Hamster

Several years ago at a grade school where I worked, there was an infestation of mice. Students were asked to clear their desks and backpacks of snacks, while custodial staff handled the eradication of the rodents. One afternoon after the students had been dismissed, a mouse happened near the path of a teacher. Being a pragmatic guy, a farmer on the side, and conveniently wearing sturdy hiking boots, the teacher promptly stomped on it.

Not wanting to burden the custodians, he took cleanup into his own hands. Just as he returned from disposing of it in an outdoor bin, he heard a frenzied colleague inquire of their peers, “Has anyone seen my hamster?”

I know. It’s horrible and hysterical all at once. To us. But not to either of those teachers. And not to the poor little classroom hamster, may he rest in peace.

Unfortunately, we can relate to that hamster. Too often, we have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, incorrectly assessed in an instant, and smashed before we knew what happened. Unlike the profusely apologetic and remorseful teacher in this true story, too many hamster smashers have no conscience about leaving us flattened in their wake.

We try objecting to the wrongful stomper: “But I … I didn’t say that. I didn’t even think that.” Our words are but tiny squeaks: “Hey! Why have I been tried and found guilty of a crime I didn’t do? I didn’t even get a chance to speak.” The people wearing the boots don’t hear. Or worse: they twist our objection into justification for the mistreatment. We get swift kicks for good measure.

There are no quick fixes for the damaging malady of humanity, no “Ten Steps To Eradicate Wrongdoing on Earth”. But we can find some solace in this: We are not alone. Others have suffered injustices too. We are not unworthy beings — it is the crushings that are wrong, not the victims.

Our accusers and abusers may never say they are sorry. The more we trusted them, the more that reality hurts. But we can move on. We can. It may not feel like it when we’re newly and thoroughly smooshed, but we can recover and regroup. As long as there is life in us, we can continue our journey to goodness.

Let’s agree to not become one of them. Let’s vow to never get even by becoming hamster stompers too. Some say vengeance is sweet, but that feeling is fleeting — the path of revenge leads to the ruin of our own lives. Let repayment be God’s business.

Let’s build the ranks of good, not evil. God will help us dodge the stompers of this world so that we can move forward. Onward we go, stronger and wiser and determined. Let’s do some good on this earth we share.

Romans 12:17-21 (NIV): 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

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