Lonnie McTaggert was having a hard time making ends meet lately. He was in between jobs again and owed hundreds of dollars in rent and utility bills, so he decided to try and escape the stress of the city for the weekend and head into the country on a camping adventure. At least he could get some relief from his building anxiety for a short period of time. Lonnie packed his car with camping supplies, a cooler filled with sandwiches and water, as well as a fishing rod and he headed East out of town with his last $55.25 in his wallet.
As he headed down Highway 6, he spotted a sign which read “FREE CAMPING” and had an arrow pointing left, so he decided to give it a try and hung a left and followed the dirt road about 5 kilometers into a dense forest until he reached a clearing. From this point on, it looked like he had to travel on foot because the road had ended. Lonnie grabbed his compass and headed North further into the woods to explore his surroundings. It didn’t appear as if anyone else had used this campsite in quite some time, because the path was overgrown and there were no footprints or tire tracks to be seen. His trek had taken him about 1 kilometer into the forest when he came upon a small pond. Bullfrogs croaked in harmony with each other as the birds in the trees above sang out a chorus in response. Lonnie stood for a moment leaning against the tree listening to the wonderful sounds of nature and his anxiety started to disappear. He headed back to his car and began to set up a tent in the clearing, built an area with a firepit, then grabbed his fishing rod and made his way back to the pond.
Lonnie sat by the pond for almost an hour and managed to catch a few largemouth bass that he would cook up for dinner that night. As he began to reel in his line for the last time, a voice came from somewhere behind him…
“How’s the fishing, mate?” the mysterious voice asked, startling Lonnie.
Lonnie looked around but couldn’t see anybody. “Who’s there?” he asked in reply.
“Up here mate!” the voice responded.
Lonnie looked up, but all he could see in the oak tree to his right was a large Great Horned Owl perched upon a branch. To Lonnie’s surprise, the owl began to speak once again…
“I couldn’t help but notice that you caught three fish today. I’ll make you a deal; if you let me have one of those fishes, I will share my wisdom with you.”
Lonnie stood by the edge of the pond and after witnessing what he had, he nearly blacked out, losing his footing, and fell into the pond. Pulling himself out, he looked back up at the grey-feathered bird sitting above and asked “Did you just talk?”
The owl immediately replied, “Of course I talked; I wasn’t going to be rude and just sit here.”
Lonnie dropped to his knees and stared up in amazement before replying, “This is incredible! I’ve never heard of an owl that could speak before. Are there others like you who can speak?”
“Of course there are.” the owl began, “Most animals have the ability to speak, though choose not to. I refuse to let humans believe that we are all dumb animals, so I voice my opinions freely. Of course, I’ve seen many humans who have the power of speech, though what comes out of their mouths is absolute rubbish. Look at politicians for example; how much of what comes out of their mouths can you believe is true?”
Lonnie chuckled at the owl’s explanation and asked, “Do you have a name?” to which the owl replied, “My name is Allister, and you are?”
“My name is Lonnie,” he replied. “I am pleased to meet you Allister. By the way, here is the fish you requested.” Lonnie threw the fish up into the tree where Allister snatched it up in his sharp talons.
“Thank you Lonnie. That saves me the trouble of fishing for my dinner later.”
“So, about this wisdom you agreed to share with me,” Lonnie began, “what exactly did you mean by that?”
“Simply this mate; I have been all over this country and have seen a lot of things, and now I am offering to help you make a better life for yourself. For example, I can help you organize your finances and get you out of debt, or I can tell you the best ways to find a soulmate. I am a wise, old owl and correct me if I am wrong, but it appears that you could use some help.”
“You are correct,” Lonnie started. “I can’t seem to keep a job and my expenses keep building up. I can’t see how I will ever get caught up. But, how can you possibly help me pay my bills?”
Allister replied, “The first thing we need to do, is to teach you how to get a decent job and keep it. Let’s start with your job experience; where have you worked at?”
Lonnie gave Allister a list of his previous occupations including a stock clerk, a cashier in a fast-food restaurant, and most recently, a delivery driver for a pizza place. Then they discussed the interview process and how to keep eye contact with the person interviewing him, finding a common interest, smiling, how to dress, and showing confidence.
“If you go into an interview believing that you are going to get the position, then odds are that you will. Employers like to see an employee who believes in his or her self because that will reflect how their job performance will be. If you don’t mind me saying so, you don’t look like a very confidant person.”
Lonnie reddened with embarrassment and replied, “Yes, unfortunately that’s true. I didn’t have the greatest role models to look up to growing up and I had nobody to teach me the things that you are teaching me now. My life revolved around an alcoholic father and a drug-using mother who lost custody when I was just six-years-old, and I spent the next 12 years of my life in foster care where things weren’t much better. Some of the homes I was in, treated me worse than their dogs, and others who seemed to care for me, couldn’t handle the trouble that I always found myself getting into.”
Allister sat silently as Lonnie opened up about his demons from the past, and as he finished, Allister offered him some advice.
“Lonnie, I am sorry to hear that your life had been so terrible so far, but I bet getting it off of your chest has helped quite a bit, hasn’t it?” Lonnie nodded in agreement. “I believe you have it in you to be a great person Lonnie. Your heart is pure and you have ambition, though you lack confidence in yourself. You suffer from anxiety and probably have panic attacks occasionally where you have a shortness of breath, perhaps some dizziness and possibly a pain in your chest, right?” Again, Lonnie agreed. “Well I want you to do something starting right now; I want you to grab a pen and paper, write down a list of all of the things that you think are wrong with you on one page, and then on another page, I want you to write only positive things that you like about yourself. This could be anything from the way you look to how you helped a little old lady with her groceries.”
Lonnie agreed and walked back to his car to grab a pen and paper then returned to the pond where Allister still waited. On his list of negative things, he had written items such as “I can’t keep a job,” or, “I am deep in debt.” On the positive list, he wrote, “I am a little overweight, but still decent looking,” and, “I am easy to get along with”. Lonnie read the lists to Allister to which the owl replied…
“Very good, now I want you to do the same thing every day this week and at the end of the week, I want you to take all of the negative comments, seal them in an envelope, date the envelope and file it away somewhere. Then I want you to read all of the positive lists over to yourself every night before you go to sleep. Continue this process every day for the next 2 weeks and then come back to tell me how you feel, okay? Just return to this pond and I will find you.”
Lonnie agreed to try out Allister’s suggestions. “Is there anything else I can try before I return?” he asked.
“Yes, I want you to create a new resume. Don’t embellish it or lie about anything, just be the real you, then find a job that pays you enough to help you get ahead. If you don’t think that you have the experience they are looking for, apply for it anyway. Some companies prefer someone that they can train to do things their way instead of someone coming in that tries to take short-cuts and does things that are not very efficient to the company.”
“Thank you Allister. I am starting to gain more confidence already after talking to you and thank you so much for all of the great advice. I will start on it as soon as I get home.”
Lonnie did as he promised, and when he returned home to his apartment, he immediately began typing out a new resume and began searching the want ads online. He also kept a notepad on his desk on which he wrote down all of the negative and positive things about his days and himself and read his positive list every night as suggested. The negative list was sealed and dated each week as well then filed away in a manilla envelope that Lonnie stored in one of his kitchen cupboards. This went on for two weeks, and as promised, he returned to the pond to meet with Allister.
Welcome back my boy!” came a familiar voice from the tall oak tree. “So, tell me about your progress.”
“Well,” Lonnie began saying, “I did everything you suggested. I made my lists every day and read the positive list every night. I also handed out my resume to twelve different companies that offered jobs with a high enough wage to help me get caught up on my debts. I went for six interviews where I was truthful, and I showed confidence as you suggested, and one place called me back for a second interview this past Tuesday…and I got the job!”
“Congratulations Lonnie! That’s wonderful news. I told you that you could do it; you just needed to believe in yourself. So, tell me about the job.”
“I will be working in a warehouse as a helper, but the owner said that there is always room for advancement for the right candidates. He said that he could see a lot of potential in me. Thank you so much Allister. I truly don’t believe that I could have done this without you.”
You are quite welcome my friend,” Allister replied, rustling his wings with excitement. “You are welcome to return here anytime you wish if you are seeking more advice, or if you just want to say hello.”
Lonnie assured his winged friend that he would return every chance he had and update Allister on what new occurrences take place in his future.
For the next five years, Lonnie continued to return to the pond and tell Allister about the amazing changes that had happened since they first met. Lonnie had worked his way up to the title of Warehouse Manager, paid off his debts, purchased his first home, and met a woman that he was going to ask to marry him. First, he wanted her to meet Allister, so he drove out to the campground, brought her to the pond, and called out his name, but Allister didn’t come. All that Lonnie could find were a couple of Allister’s feathers laying upon the ground. Lonnie took the time to explain his story about Allister to his fiancé, but she had a hard time believing him. It wasn’t until they had heard a new voice calling out Lonnie’s name. It was a grey squirrel that Lonnie had seen during his previous journeys to the pond. The squirrel told Lonnie and his fiancé that Allister had passed away but wanted him to know how much he appreciated Lonnie’s friendship. Lonnie’s fiancé, Margaret, stood stunned at first, but then a smile formed on her face as she realized the miracle that her future husband had been trying to convince her of, actually happened. The two were married two weeks later, had a baby boy a year into their marriage, and decided to name him Allister.