It’s been a while since I’ve seen a wild rabbit. The last time I remember, it rushed off into the woods before I noticed it was there.
There’s a park near my house that I’ve been going to just about every day.
The need to get outside is an urge that seems to take my hands, and turn the steering wheel north. So I keep finding myself at this park.
What I like most about it are the hills that overlook the suburban terrain. There are two ponds on opposite sides, with the hills in between. I was jogging by one of these on a humid and hot day and noticed a rabbit near the water.
How nice to see a rabbit just chilling out, I thought. Then I saw another one. Then another…
This area was teeming with them! I’ve never seen this many rabbits in my life, except at a pet store.
They have dusty, brown fur, like toffee, and have more courage than the average bunny. When I ran by, they looked up with their beady eyes. They held their ground and are nothing like the skittish ones I’m used to seeing.
On another day, I was running down a path next to the water. Just like before, the rabbits were hopping around.
Further up, I noticed a sign that warned not to feed or engage with the wildlife. There was a picture of an alligator on it.
And sure enough, I saw a four-foot alligator. I didn’t notice him until I was 20 feet away. When he heard me coming, he casually slid back into the water.
This surprised me — a month ago a lady in a nearby town was killed by an alligator. Her dog survived, but all they found of her was her arm inside the gator’s belly.
Keep in mind that, opposite of the pond, there’s a playground with swings, colorful slides, and obstacles for kids to play on.
I’ve taken both of my daughters there before, and when I saw this little gator, I imagined him springing out from a bush, chomping down on one of my kids, and dragging them to the water. I won’t be bringing them here anymore.
What struck me, after the horror slideshow stopped playing in my mind, were the rabbits...
Why were they there, at the water’s edge? They have keen senses and are aware, at least on an instinctual level, that there are predators lurking about, eager to mangle their fluffy coats and tear them apart underneath the water.
But they were there, even so, hopping around in a lazy fashion. Brave little bunnies!
Then it occurred to me that they were next to their enemies, creatures that could hurt them the most, because it’s also where their food was. They have seen the alligators with their own eyes, but still search for food, where, at any moment, they could be killed.
That’s because most life (or most gain) is proximal to the most danger.
The rabbits eat their food where it is most plentiful. They could be killed any moment but they remain outside of their comfort zone because the risk is worth it.
Like an ironic joke created by nature, the most dangerous place is the location where the means of their survival is most abundant.
We could flex our courage a little more like these rabbits.
For most of us, we aren’t at risk from environmental dangers, but relational ones. This doesn’t mean they are less deadly. We can be killed socially — isolated and alone can feel the same as being dead.
The risks we take, or should take, could kill some of our relationships, or even parts of ourselves. It’s part of the territory.
It’s in the space of relational risks where we find out what we need to survive.
Some part of me might be killed in the process, but just like the rabbits are willing to stand their ground, the risk is worth it. It’s the price you pay to eat, survive, and thrive.
There will always be monsters lurking around ready to destroy you.
When I looked closer, there were a few rabbits that almost had a twinkle in their eyes, like they knew something I didn’t.
Perhaps it’s the time spent out in field of danger, where they honed their skills, learned how to become nimble, and got plump by stuffing their mouths with food.
Brave little bunnies. We could be more like them.