A toad sat in the middle of the sidewalk, just a few steps from the store entrance. There was nothing remarkable about the little fella—brown and bumpy and a smidge smaller than my fist—except that he was casually hanging out in front of TJ Maxx.
My daughter and I squatted down to get a better look. Yep, he was breathing. But he didn’t move, even when I tapped him on the rear.
A woman walking into the store stopped to check him out. She was much braver than I, stretching out each of his legs to see if they were broken.
“See this front one,” she said. “It’s a little smashed. Somebody must have stepped on the little guy.” She advised me to carry him over to the pond about a hundred yards away. I wasn’t eager to pick up a partially squished toad.
TJ Maxx is in an old shopping center—Crossroads Centre—and has been there for as long as I can remember, the early to mid-‘80s. This probably wasn’t the first time a toad found his way there.
The longer I stood with the injured toad, the less I wanted to carry him across the parking lot to the retention pond. Still, I didn’t want the creature to get completely squished.
I sent my daughter to wait in the car with her dad and shivered as I picked up the poor toad. As I crossed the asphalt into the grass I felt his cold belly against my palm. Which of us was more nervous?
I peeked between my hands and met his hard stare. As he eyed me I said, “Don’t worry, Toad. I’m taking you to the pond where you’ll be safe.” His cold belly fluttered against my palm, but he didn’t argue.
Gently, I placed the toad in the grass a little ways from the water and watched him for a second or two. He sat there, just as still as he’d been in front of TJ Maxx. I wished him luck and told him to get well. Suddenly, I hated to leave him.
Phil and Caroline were waiting for me in the car. I hopped in, pleased at my good deed, when Phil joked, “What if the toad had been trying his whole life to get to TJ Maxx, and you just set him back to square one?” We laughed at this speculation, but I felt it in the pit of my stomach—the pang of futility.
What’s sadder than a toad with a crushed leg? A toad with a crushed dream. But here’s a lesson from the toad: when you find yourself in the wrong place with a cold belly and stepped-on toes, remember it’s not just a setback but a crossroads as well—a crossroads with heretofore unseen possibilities and opportunities to choose what is good.
At least that’s what I heard.