Symbol of the Month: The Horseshoe, March 2020

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    A horseshoe is a manmade, iron item, designed to protect a horse hoof from excessive wear and tear. Why, then, do we tend to associate horseshoes with good luck? The lucky horseshoe is a big part of Irish folklore (despite being typically associated with western cowboy culture). The story of Dunstan and the horseshoe varies greatly depending on where you look. But the gist of the story is that in the 10th century, St. Dunstan, a blacksmith, was visited by the devil himself. The hoofed devil asked for a horseshoe for himself. So then, Dunstan nailed a red hot horseshoe tightly on one of his hooves, and the devil howled in pain. The devil begged for Dunstan to remove it. Dunstan agreed under one condition -- the devil must respect the horseshoe and never enter any place where one was hung above the door. Because of this, people believed that the horseshoe could keep evil spirits out of their homes, and thus bring in good fortune.

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    When we chalk something up to “good luck,” this suggests a reliance, or at least a belief in, something bigger than ourselves. Ascribing good or bad things simply to luck gives us a momentary reprieve from being responsible for our own mood or outlook. This type of surrender can serve to remind us of how small we are in the grand scheme of things. It’s also refreshing to take a break from trying to be “the best teenager” or “the best adult” and, instead, to assign blame or lavish praise on this little intruder called “luck” which randomly descends upon us, on a whim. This topic can spark an interesting conversation with the adolescent set who are still very much grappling with their beliefs in all things greater than themselves. As they tiptoe, for the first time, toward this “meta-cognition,” (the notion that some greater force might be at work in this world) we get to witness the seedlings of maturity beginning to sprout.

    I had the good fortune of seeing Anna Quindlen speak last Wednesday night at a school nearby. So much of what she said resonated with me, but I’ll leave you with this: In describing her best parenting take-aways, Anna suggested that, “It was what I didn’t do or say rather than what I did that mattered most of all.” Perhaps, as you ponder luck and the forces out there, greater than ourselves, ponder quietly with your kids, letting them take the lead in connecting the dots for themselves. Enjoy!

    Our monthly content is ideated and written by Cristina Young, LCSW, who has more than 25 years of experience providing professional support to children, adolescents, adults, and families.