Q&A WITH MICHAEL AND CHRISTINE WAY SKINNER, AUTHORS OF THERE MUST BE A PONY IN HERE SOMEWHERE

All stories are true… and some of them actually happened. As an Irish/Indigenous Catholic storytelling family, this aphorism sums up our attitude to stories. The following event likely never happened, but when we heard it many years ago, we immediately knew it to be “true.” It goes like this. A psychologist set up an experiment to investigate pessimism and optimism in children. One child (let’s call him Brian) was shown a room full of toys. Brian was told that he had the afternoon to play in the room with whatever he liked. After an hour, the psychologist walked in to find him sitting in the middle of the room, tears running down his face, completely despondent. The psychologist asked Brian why he was so unhappy. “There are so many toys here,” he said, “I can’t decide which one to play with first.” A second child (let’s call her Rita) was taken to an empty barn filled with horse manure. Upon entering the barn, Rita’s face lit up and her mouth curled into a wide smile. She picked up a nearby shovel and began digging into the manure and tossing it about with joyful exuberance. After an hour, the psychologist observed Rita still happily exploring every inch of the space. When asked why she was so happy, she replied, “With this much poop, there must be a pony in here somewhere!”

            What a wonderful illustration of the variety of approaches we, as humans, can have towards the abundance that surrounds us. Sometimes, we are so busy looking for something specific that we believe will make us happy that we become blind to the gifts of God that are right before our eyes. Other times, we show a magnificent ability to look for and hope for good even when we are surrounded by (not to put too fine a point on it) … well, crap!

The more we nourish our ability to hope for ponies because we have seen pony poop, the more likely we are to find happiness. In Christian terms, this means becoming intentional in our practice of looking for signs of God’s presence, goodness and self-communication in the events of daily life.

Michael Way Skinner and Christine Way Skinner, There Must Be a Pony in Here Somewhere: Everyday Stories of God’s Goodness (Toronto: Novalis, 2020), pp. 7-8.

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