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We have met the enemy; they are us

One of my favorite children’s books is “Enemy Pie” by Derek Munson. It’s about a boy whose No. 1 enemy — his only enemy — is the new kid on the block. The new kid laughed at him when he struck out and didn’t invite him to his trampoline party.

But this boy’s dad understood enemies, said he knew how to get rid of them, and pulled out a top-secret recipe for Enemy Pie. So secret, in fact, that Dad wouldn’t reveal its ingredients. The one thing that Dad did tell him, though, was that “Enemy Pie is the fastest known way to get rid of enemies.”

So our curious young protagonist naturally began wondering just what disgusting ingredients Enemy Pie might contain. Weeds? Earthworms? Rocks? ABC gum? Or even poison? But Dad wouldn’t let on. He just smiled and went to work chopping, stirring, blending and baking.

Funny thing, though. The odor emanating from the kitchen didn’t smell horrible at all. In fact, it smelled really good. Dad just said, “If Enemy Pie smelled bad, your enemy would never eat it.” A bit confused, the boy just figured his dad must really know what he was doing, because when the pie came out of the oven, it looked good enough to eat, too!

Then Dad said that Enemy Pie wouldn’t work on its own. His son had a job to do first: “In order for it to work, you need to spend a day with your enemy. Even worse, you have to be nice to him. It’s not easy. But that’s the only way ….” That sounded really scary, but the boy decided it would be worth it if it meant getting rid of his enemy once and for all.

So, he took a deep breath, knocked on the new kid’s door, and asked if he could play. All day long they jumped on the trampoline and shot baskets together, threw water balloons at neighbor girls, ate lunch, tossed boomerangs, played checkers and cards, and even hid out together in the boy’s new “friends-only” treehouse. The new kid wasn’t really being a very good enemy! And both of them were actually having lots of fun together.

After dinner, Dad pulled out the Enemy Pie, seemed oblivious to his son’s subtle protests, and dished up big slices topped with mounds of ice cream for each of them. It was then that our young friend panicked. “Don’t eat it! It’s bad pie! I think it’s poisonous or something!” he shouted to the new kid, relieved to have saved his life.

“Then why has your dad already eaten half of it?” the new kid responded, pointing to Dad’s nearly empty plate and berry-covered lips. Dad just grinned. So the boys dug in and enjoyed some delicious Enemy Pie together. And curiously enough, nobody died, lost their hair, or even got bad breath as a result.

The young boy couldn’t figure out how it had worked. But one thing was sure — he’d just lost his best enemy.

So, who’s your best enemy? More importantly, what are you doing about it?

Baking a pie for your enemy is a good start. Enemy Chocolate Chip Cookies, Enemy Cinnamon Rolls, Enemy Homemade Ice Cream, and Enemy Seven-Course Meal Just Because also work nicely. But remember that no matter how tasty they are, none of these enemy recipes work on their own. To really get rid of our best enemies, we have to spend a day, or two or 12 or more with them. Even worse, we have to be nice while doing it.

That’s because the best enemy recipes aren’t made of physical ingredients at all. Instead, they’re made of quality time, and human connection, and genuine interest, and thoughtful listening, and warm smiles, and realizing that we and our enemies have far more common ground than we ever imagined.

Comic strip character Pogo the possum is perhaps best remembered for saying “We have met the enemy and he is us” on a poster attempting to raise environmental awareness in conjunction with the first Earth Day in 1970.

And when it comes to enemies, it’s still true that more often than not, you and I share much of the blame. So let’s stop being our own worst enemies and start cooking up some good, old Enemy Pie. Maybe then we’ll get rid of our best enemies, too!

Rod Woodbury is mayor of Boulder City. He has been serving on the City Council since 2011 and is the president and managing shareholder of his law firm, Woodbury Law.

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