Have you kissed a frog lately?
This painting was inspired by Dig ‘Em, the cartoon mascot of Honey Smacks. But it represents something deeper than a favorite Saturday morning breakfast cereal from my youth. Whether it’s a beautiful princess or a handsome prince disguised as a slimy wart-ridden amphibian, frogs often find themselves in fairy tales as hidden forms of something else.
Fairy tales aren’t real, but sometimes real life does mimic them.
For example, do you know someone in your life you weren’t very fond of when you first met? When I was in Little League, Scott D. was the best player on the best team (which sadly, wasn’t mine). I was certain he was part-cyborg – no human was that good – who drank plutonium for breakfast. I pitched against him a few times.
It never went well.
I tried hitting against him, too (with “tried” being the operative word). He was the only kid in the league who threw a real curveball, and you couldn’t actually see his fastball, only hear it zip by you as you stood Jello-legged in the batter’s box. He fielded every ground ball that came his way and hit home runs over buildings, always with an air of ease and an ever-present smile plastered on his face.
I hated him and that stupid, smug smile.
Fast forward a few years and we ended up on the same high school baseball team together. He was still a great player, but I discovered that he wasn’t part-cyborg. He was actually a super nice guy, and we became friends. Scott was the kind of person who made you feel better than you actually were. He was ten times the ballplayer I was, but he made me feel like we were equals. I was a second baseman, and we developed a sneaky pickoff maneuver when he was pitching. With nothing more than a knowing glance, we claimed many a baserunner with our clever trap. After the umpire called the out and our opponent slinked shamefully off the field, we always shared a smile together.
Some may have even considered it smug.
Like a frog in a fable, we regularly encounter situations in which things aren’t as they appear and surprise us when their true identities are revealed. Enemies transform into friends. Setbacks turn into steps forward. Challenges become unexpected gifts.
Over the course of the pandemic, stories of pain, loss, and anger have been plentiful. We know those stories well; they’re the ones trumpeted by the media and passed along on social media like a dirty crack pipe. But I love asking people to share good reports from the ordeal. In my virtual and in-person speaking programs, I can always count on receiving a stream of replies from attendees; stories of happy moments, unanticipated opportunities, and surprising blessings.
Sometimes life feels more like a horror movie than a fairy tale, with our happy ending having gone missing.
But pay attention; it might be hiding right around the corner.
It can be hard to find hope in present circumstances. That’s why it’s helpful to look back on the surprise twists we’ve already encountered, to remind us of their presence and give us hope.
The interesting twist in my story about Scott is that he didn’t change, only my perception of him did. And that’s the big difference between fairy tales and real life. In real life, it’s usually not the frog that transforms, it’s us.
Might be worth keeping that in mind the next time you find yourself in a swamp, face-to-face with a frog.