Editor’s Corner: Wrong side of the fence

Amy Forbus

Amy Forbus

The ground behind our house cannot be considered a lawn, as grass is sparse, but I suppose it still qualifies as a backyard, as it’s in back of our house and bordered by a wooden fence. Just beyond it, though, is an undeveloped wooded area that serves as a thoroughfare for urban wildlife. And not all urban wildlife respects a fence line.

It seems one rather large opossum (henceforth referred to as ‘possum, as this is, after all, Arkansas) endured quite a startle from our back door opening last Friday night, because when we followed our city canids outside, it already had taken to playing that game ‘possums play so well. The foster dog began barking at it, which had no discernible bearing upon its demeanor. From its contorted position on the ground, with rump tipped up against the fence and neck turned at an unlikely angle, the ‘possum appeared to have been frightened to its demise while patrolling our perimeter from six feet aloft.

After corralling the dogs back inside the house, we undertook an investigation, and intrepid husband discerned a feeble twitch after the fourth or fifth prod with an umbrella. We deemed that the dogs would conduct the necessary transactions on the front lawn to allow some recovery time for dear Mr. or Ms. ‘Possum. After supper, we discovered to our relief that though we have indeed had to bury a real-live dead ‘possum once before, we would not have that chore this time. No, thank the Lord, the fence line was empty! The ‘possum lives!

Why yes, I have spent a great deal of time thinking about this ‘possum. (And no, I haven’t named it… though if I did, it would be Lazarus… or Awesome.) I’ve been thinking about this ‘possum because some folks have no use for it. But behold, the continent’s only marsupial! Possessing more teeth than any other mammal! Devourer of ticks! Beloved creature of God!

According to the Opossum Society of the United States, the ‘possum “helps keep our neighborhoods clean and free of unwanted, harmful garden pests and rodents, which may carry diseases. The opossum has earned the title of ‘Nature’s Little Sanitation Engineer.’”

I admit, I do wonder why God created the mosquito, and I suspect I’m not alone (especially when malaria and the zika virus come into the picture). The ‘possum, though, has its merits. As do those people in our lives who may not live up to our expectations, or who are planted firmly outside our political or theological fence line, whom we would exclude or who would exclude us, for reasons large and small. And I think at some point we’ve all found ourselves on a fence, frozen, resigned to a fall, just praying it’ll all work out.

Amazing how much one little backyard encounter can give someone to consider.

To reach me, send an email to aforbus@arumc.org.