Some years ago the trustees of the Denver zoo were given a polar bear. They were quite excited over the gift. The problem was they didn’t have any place to put it. So they went on a financial crusade throughout the city of Denver to raise enough money to build it a home.
In time a state of the arts palace was planned and built. It was beautiful—ice water baths, rock-climbing, mountains, a waterfall. That polar bear was going to have a wonderful home.
However, the drive to raise the money and the time for the construction took three years. So during the threeyear period they had to keep the polar bear in a little bitty cage with very limited space. In fact, there was only enough room for him to walk three steps this way, rise up, turn around and walk three steps that way. All day long and into the night, three steps this way, rise up, turn around and walk three steps the other way. Frankly, it was a pitiful sight to watch.
But finally, after three years the new home was finished. Everybody who was anybody in the city of Denver, everybody who had given money to the project, was there for the unveiling of the polar bear’s new home. The stands were packed with the leading citizens of the city of Denver.
The zookeepers wheeled the little cage out into the brand new home, opened the door, and went outside and waited.
The polar bear didn’t budge an inch. The zookeepers went back in and after quite a bit of effort pushed it out. Then they wheeled the cage away so everybody could see the polar bear discover its brand new home.
And you know what that bear did? He looked around, took three steps this way, rose up, turned around, walked three steps that way, rose up, turned around. Why did the bear do that? Because it got a little bitty cage imprinted on its mind and its mind stayed caged even after the cage was removed.
So often your life and mine is like that, don’t you think? Somehow we get a little bitty cage imprinted on our minds and our minds stay caged long after the cage has been removed.
It was Oliver Wendell Holmes who wrote:
Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll! Leave thy low vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!