“I can't stand to fly
I'm not that naive
I'm just out to find
The better part of me.”
-Five for Fighting, Superman
When my daughters and I arrived to do our volunteer duties last Sunday, we noticed a new cat in one of the shelter cages. When I began reading Sheryl the cat’s story of how she was rescued from a maintenance man threatening to terminate her and her six kittens, I knew exactly who this cat was. We fostered her babies all summer long! I hurriedly unlocked the cage and pulled that sweet mama to my chest. I was not expecting to become emotional, but I did. I could not stop the tears.
I was holding a four-legged miracle.
When this cat was rescued from the apartment building, she was close to death. It took her three months to recover from anemia caused by a parasite—but here she was, happy and healthy.
When my daughters and I told Mama Cat Sheryl how we found loving homes for all her babies, she purred even louder. She nestled in and rested her head on my shoulder. Perhaps she could sense we had stepped in to love her precious kittens when she couldn’t do it herself.
This weekend, my daughters and I head back to the shelter with more excitement than usual. It is “adopt-a-thon” weekend at all the shelters in PetsMarts around the country. The owner of the shelter where we volunteer is going to put the cats waiting to be adopted into carriers and display them in the store. Heavy foot traffic is expected. My daughters and I are eager to help. I already know where my younger daughter will stand—right next to Odie’s carrier. I deemed her Odie’s Spokesperson a few weeks ago when I noticed what she does each time prospective adopters walk in.
“This is Odie,” she says, drawing their attention toward the beautiful tuxedo cat. “He’s been here for almost a year. We don’t know why because he is so loving, playful, and he’s very smart!”
Everyone pauses to look and listen to Odie’s Spokesperson. Some of them get to hear his background story. Some get to hear how he licks your hand softly when you put it near the cage. Some even get to hear desperation in a little’s girl’s voice. I know I do. She is his spokesperson, proudly talking him up to anyone who will listen in hopes of finding him a forever home.
I know where I will stand during the adopt-a-thon. I’ll stay close to Sheryl’s carrier to say what was left off her story card: “Resilient mama cat who fought her way back from death so she could learn of her babies’ fates. And now that she knows, she’s at peace and ready to love you with all her heart.”
My older daughter, with energy abundant, cannot be tied down to one cat. She will move from cage to cage looking for anyone who is agitated, scared, or upset. She is Cat Whisper for the unruly, feisty, and depressed. She speaks softly and gently, never rushing them out of their cages. My older daughter will stay close to whoever needs her so they know she is there to help.
Yes, we will all have our roles this weekend. It feels good to know where are strengths are needed. We are anticipating good things to happen and sad things, too. We are anticipating experiences that contain invaluable lessons that will stick with us indefinitely.
My friends, the lessons of the cat shelter just keep coming. And the latest reminders feel too important to keep to myself, so here they are …
- If today finds you fighting your way back from a difficult place, try focusing on what it is that you must see through. What must you do in this world that no one else can do? No matter how dismal things look right now, you are still breathing; you are not finished. You have a goal that only you can accomplish. Let that goal give your strength, motivation, and purpose.
- If today finds you caring for someone else’s beloveds because he or she can’t, please know that you are giving the most incredible gift! Just think about the message the recipient of your love is receiving: “This person loving me doesn’t have to love me, she is choosing to love me!” Your selfless gift of love lets the person know he or she matters and are worthy of your time, effort, and love.
- And if today finds you carrying out the role of “spokesperson,” please know how much your role matters. It’s one thing to sit in the lonely place of expectancy and uncertainty all by oneself. It’s another to have someone standing there beside you, proudly talking you up to anyone who might listen. Sometimes all we need to believe in ourselves is one person to believe in us. Sometimes all we need to remember our worth is to have someone point it out.
In the weekend ahead, let’s pay attention to miracles in and around us. Let’s hold them to our chests and rejoice with smiles and tears.
And if you have any inkling that a four-legged miracle might be waiting for you, then go. Please go. See what awaits you. It could be your saving day with lessons unending.
Dear friends of the Hands Free Revolution, since the time I began sharing our experiences at the cat shelter, many of you have written to tell us that you and your family began volunteering too. My daughters and I read them together with such joy and delight. Like us, the experience is making as much of a difference in your life as it is in the animals lives. When a customer popped her head into the shelter one day and thanked us for saving them, my response was: “It is the animals who save us.” Sunday afternoons at the cat shelter have become a time of connection, joy, purpose, and fulfillment for us. Sunday afternoons save us again and again and again. I encourage everyone to seek out their own little space of saving grace. And if today's post inspires you to take some kind of action, please let me know. Thank you for being part of this community here on the blog, the Facebook page, and on Instagram. I cherish every one of you and every comment, spoken and unspoken.
Beautiful Tennessee, I am coming to see you! Ticket links available for the October 4th speaking event in Chattanooga here and the October 6th Clarksville event here. I will be happy to sign your personal copies of my books or there will be copies on hand to purchase. I can't wait to hug you! Below is a picture of me basking in the love and acceptance of my California friends on Tuesday night. I will never forget our magical evening together, dear ones.