Who inspires you to be a better human? Is it your pastor? Your partner? A relative? Superhero? Your mom?
It’s not an easy thing to find in today’s culture in America. Inspiration? Hope? Every where we look, we see polarity. Arguments. Bullying. People who profit from and support the suffering of others. How deeply do we have to dig to find something that reminds us of the goodness of humanity in our everyday lives?
Let me tell you a story of inspiration. The story photo shown is actually a wall of canvas prints of animals. Dogs, specifically, and spirits now. They are memorialized by two people that I am privileged to know and love. I am privileged because I get to love them, and I get to learn from them each day what real love, values, morals, caring, and action looks like. All the things that most of us would like to attribute to our own religion or spirituality, these people just live every day.
The dogs include Wesley, the old man with bangs, and Patsy, the boxer with cancer, and Tater, whose back legs and hips wouldn’t let him move very far without help. There is Pops, whose tongue is perpetually dry because the lower half of his jaw is gone, and Gus Gus, whose heart wasn’t expected to function for very long. Not pictured are some of the current crew consisting of Kevin, the five legged pittie whose ears were cut too short by someone more interested in his fighting skills instead of his health, and Poo, the blind and deaf poodle dropped off because he required too much care. Also not pictured are the fur kids adopted throughout the years. There’s Jake, black lab extraordinaire; Kaya, dope on a rope who enjoys a good bag of mulch occasionally; Pepper, the gazelle disguised as a dog; Nola, the soul mate adopted during a rescue during Hurricane Katrina; Biscuit, the dog training cat; Butter, the cat who morphs into whatever you need at the moment, and countless other ferrets, snakes, mice, and rabbits.
Deb and Dave provide hospice care to elderly, sick animals that need a soft place to land on their way out of this world. For some, these people are the only soft place ever known to these animals. For all of these animals, these people give generously and lovingly from their hearts and their bank accounts. How unselfish does one have to be to fully fund, without assistance, expensive medications, food, and medical care for animals who have been thrown away essentially? How loving does one have to be to offer a home, a heart, and time to another living creature unable to fend for itself? At any given time, they nurture a minimum of three hospice animals in addition to their brood.
In addition to this, what they consider to be their life’s work, they volunteer weekly at the Humane Society loving animals that don’t have a soft place to land. They regularly transport animals from not so great situations to homes where they have a chance to be loved and cared for. Deb volunteers regularly for rescue missions with organizations, and sees situations that would break most people and render them catatonic. People like me.
I love animals. Many of us have pets that we consider family members. Our own Cora Belle, Rumi, and Bit are the family that brings constant joy to our lives on a daily basis. I know how to care for animals. I am filled with compassion, and a desire to end pain for any living creature.
But I can’t do what my better humans do. I do not have what it takes to witness the outcome of human cruelty with my own eyes, and not let it break me. I do not have what it takes to quietly take on the suffering of multiple living creatures, and emerge whole. Maybe they don’t either. Maybe they each give pieces of life from themselves to every life they touch. You won’t find a person alive who has met them, worked alongside them, or volunteered with them who doesn’t love them. There are many more out there who do what they do, quietly, willingly, without us ever knowing the cost to them. What about the people who can’t do what they do? The people like me, who just can’t. Maybe our job is to say “thank you”. Maybe our job is to hug them, and love them, and cry with them, and lift them up. Maybe we can pour into them a tiny portion of the love that they so freely give to the ones that we can’t.
Who inspires you to be a better human? Find them and say “thank you”.