The Parable of the Skunk

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(This is an excerpt from the chapter "Live After the Manner of Happiness" in the book Love Life and See Good Days.)

One night, Greg was helping my brother-in-law paint his new home. I had spent the evening with my parents because I didn’t want my youngest son, Josh, to breathe in the paint fumes. Josh was about eight months old at the time. He had been born with sleep apnea and now spent all of his sleeping hours hooked up to a special monitor that would alert us if he stopped breathing. Around ten o’clock that night, Greg called to say that they were finished painting. My dad offered to drive me to meet Greg over at the new house so we could all drive home together.

We pulled up and parked next to a large hedge across the street from the house. It was a beautiful summer evening, and although the sun had gone down, it was still very warm. I opened my door to get out and was immediately greeted by the thick, penetrating smell of a skunk. I hate skunks! I quickly checked around in the darkness to make sure the coast was clear and then opened the back door to start unloading Josh. Unplugging him from the monitor, I threw the diaper bag over one shoulder, lifted the breathing monitor strap over the other shoulder, and grabbed Josh’s infant car seat to carry him from the car. I had just slammed the car door shut and walked around the back of the vehicle when I heard a noise. Immediately I knew what it was. “Dad,” I whispered in pure panic, “the skunk is behind me!”

I was frozen in fear. I wasn’t sure what the right thing to do might be. Were skunks like bees? If I stood still for long enough, would it leave me alone? My dad, on the other hand, bolted into action. With no concern for my welfare, he grabbed the car seat with Josh strapped in it and began running full speed down the center of the street. Now, I’m not stupid, and I wasn’t going to face the skunk alone, so I took off running down the street behind him. As unbelievable as this might seem, I could hear the skunk running behind me in the darkness, chasing us down the street. I screamed after my dad, “It’s following us! What should I do?” He just started running faster.

By now I was out of breath. I didn’t know how much longer I could run with the heavy load I was carrying. As I approached the streetlight I decided to take a risk and turn around to see how close behind me the skunk was. Within the circle of light I immediately recognized the culprit. Instantly I fell to the ground, hysterical with laughter. My dad (who thought I had been skunked) stopped running and began to approach me slowly. “What is it?” he called out. “What’s wrong?” I was laughing so hard it took me at least three minutes to answer.

The light had illuminated the whole situation. What I thought was a skunk was really the cord of Josh’s monitor, which had been dragging five feet behind me since I had lifted it out of the car.

It is amazing what darkness can do. It has the unsettling effect of altering perception and creating a sense of unease. This unsettling effect happens to all of us at one time or another, and it is a reality that we need to acknowledge. Things seem to look more dire in the nighttime hours. We are all familiar with the admonition that it’s always darkest just before the dawn.

Have you ever lain awake all night trying to solve a problem in your mind? Often these sleepless nights have led me to call on the Lord in prayer. When I can’t sleep, I pray. Those dark, quiet hours allow uninterrupted time to counsel with the Lord. In Third Nephi we read, “Behold, I am . . . the light” (3 Nephi 15:9). In the darkest of hours, I have learned that the Savior really is a giver of light. When darkness surrounds us and seems to overtake us, we must do what Joseph Smith once did in a grove of trees—get down on our knees and pray.

Sometimes seeing a good day requires waiting for the sun to rise again. Often morning brings the peace and insight that elude us in the midnight hours. A key element for changing our point of view can be found in this beautiful scripture: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

Let the rising of the sun lift your spirit and enlighten your perspective. Spend the morning hours seeking some small portion of good amidst the darkness that surrounds you.

Maybe it’s not the darkness of the night that is hindering your perception; maybe a sense of gloom is dimming your ability to see clearly. Try to shed some light on the situation. Turn to places and things that bring light. Morning hours, the scriptures, uplifting music, and time spent at the temple can help to illuminate your current circumstances.

The parable of the skunk teaches a simple but important lesson on perspective: If you can’t see clearly now, wait for the light to come.

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