Pondering some way to help a friend cope with an extraordinary ordeal, I got unexpected help one afternoon from an unwelcome intruder.
Lounging in my living room, I heard a thump coming from the fireplace. Since there was no fire there, something had obviously fallen from the chimney. I waited for developments. They were soon to come.
After sounds of motion, indeed commotion, I noticed a large squirrel exploring ways to get out. I didn't want to open the fireplace doors, running the certain risk of a squirrel roaming my house - a situation I couldn't readily control. My one hope was that the intruder would soon realize there was no way out except to patiently climb the long chimney back to freedom. It didn't immediately explore this option.
It poked at the fireplace's glass doors. It climbed up and down their metal curtain. Sounds of soot falling into the fireplace soon indicated the squirrel was exploring the long, tough attempt that had to be made - back up the chimney. The messy soot was no doubt a distasteful deterrent. So the struggling squirrel tried more poking, more climbing on the fireplace curtain.
Each time I heard soot falling, I rushed to the window where I could see the top of the chimney. I waited anxiously for the squirrel to emerge. There was disappointment after disappointment, watching the squirrel's frustrated efforts to get where it desperately yearned to go. I worried about the ultimate result if the exhausting frustrations stifled its yearning for freedom.
Finally, after another round of soot noises, I saw the squirrel emerge through the chimney top, shake off the mess, and take off. I cheered!
Having watched this drama unfold, I imagined that, somehow, that squirrel, acting out its ordeal, had come to tell me something about the advice I might give my troubled friend. Telling him about how that squirrel coped with its crisis might brighten the somber visit I was planning - making my advice easier to give and for him to take. The squirrel's saga that day was, of course, unique to squirrels. But there was something about it that might be a useful parable for how my friend should confront the ordeal with which he was trying to cope.
On my next visit, I cheerfully told him how the squirrel had come to my hearth to demonstrate, in its unique way, the resolve that any creature should muster in coping with life's recurrent trials and tribulations. I hope he found it helpful.