Living & Growing: Dead fish

“Do you think I’ll die if I lick a dead salmon?” How do you answer that as a parent?

“Do you think I’ll die if I lick a dead salmon?”

How do you answer that as a parent?

“Yes, I think you will die regardless of what you lick because we all die. Are you asking about imminent death from some salmon parasite disease? I’m not sure.”

Why I’m allowed to parent, I don’t know, but we Googled “licking dead salmon.” That’s an interesting search and there are parasite issues that are uncomfortable for humans and deadly for dogs. I then forbid her from licking or kissing the dog. I have boundaries.

After we learned more about parasites than I ever wanted to know, I finally broached the subject of why she was licking a dead salmon.

“Even if you thought he would turn into a prince, he’d still be dead.”

I should have known. It was a dare. With money attached. Now it all makes sense and I’m slightly proud.

I once ate the remains from an all you can eat Chinese buffet in my son’s bib pocket for $10. It was a dare from the youth group. Or maybe I said, “how much will you pay me to eat this?” It looked more disgusting than it was, but it still was kind of gross.

Well worth $10 from a bunch of teenagers. Yes, I made them pay.

There’s something motivating about dares with money attached. I’ve been wrestling with how the community of faith can be a more courageous community and I feel like dares backed with money might push us all out of our comfort zone. Imagine if we played truth or dare on Sunday mornings at church pushing and cajoling each other into greater honesty and risk.

It has its hazards. Risking and revealing ourselves just for the titillation of it is dangerous and addictive. But, there is something vitalizing when we are uncomfortable and slightly grossed out.

If you can lick a dead salmon, then maybe it’s also possible to risk intervening when something is wrong, speaking and standing up for those who are silenced, and even acknowledging hurt and offering forgiveness.

If you can push yourself out of your comfort zone for one thing, then maybe that’s all the practice you need for the stuff that really matters.

Or maybe it’s just gross and funny. Either way you win.

• Tari Stage-Harvey is pastor of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.

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