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I was perfectly capable of making the long drive and transporting the precious cargo all by myself.
But then someone who loves me very much unexpectedly offered to go along.
I didn’t say yes right away.
Although I am becoming more receptive to accepting help, my gut reaction is to take care of things independently.
The person who loves me added, “It’s totally up to you. But if you want someone to drive while you look after the kittens, I’ll be glad to go.”
That last part really snagged my attention.
“Okay,” I decided a bit later. “It would be really nice to have company.”
Knowing that my husband likes to go in and get jobs done fast and efficiently, I posed one caveat.
“Once we get there, I need time to visit with the cats at the sanctuary and not be rushed.”
The next day, Scott honored my request. From the serene acreage that was home to one hundred cats in various colors, demeanors, and stages of life, I waved goodbye as Scott pulled away.
Later, I heard about his experience in the sleepy, little town where he went to pass time.
“Where are you from? What brings you here?” the friendly cafe owner inquired before Scott had a chance to sit down.
After listening to his explanation, she surmised, “Oh, I see, you’re an animal transporter.”
Scott was quick to clarify that he’d simply married a true Animal Lover and supporting me often meant helping animals.
As he described his experience in town, I’d realized that Scott didn’t question the date of the transport, which fell on the Fourth of July holiday weekend. He didn’t question the 422-mile drive, nor the boat load of paper towels and trash bags for emergency clean up. And that very morning, he’d strategically fit several cat trees into the back of my car like a Jenga expert.
I never told Scott the painful childhood memory burned in my soul. At five years old, I was shamed for crying over the sight of animals who had been abandoned.
Hearing animal rescue was not a worthy cause stuck with me… for decades.
From that moment on, I didn’t stop caring about the cause, but I kept it to myself.
For over thirty years, I advocated quietly. It wasn’t until my last out-of-state move that it shifted. A new city and a yearning to meet people with similar passions inspired me to take my animal advocacy out into the open… along with some human rights issues I care deeply about.
By then, I’d done extensive work to separate my self-worth from external approval. I knew I had the authority, knowledge, and confidence to decide how I wanted to spend my time, money, and energy during my days on earth.
This notion of being vocal and brave about the issues that impact our collective wellbeing seems especially important right now.
Scott and I talked about this during the three-hour ride home once the kittens being transporting had fallen asleep. We talked about the injustices, the violence, the future of our democracy, and the world we want to leave our daughters and their children. Scott and I don’t always see eye to eye on these complex issues, but we listened to each other… and we despaired together… and we talked about actionable steps we need to take now, a time that will make future history books.
It was late, and I was really tired when we pulled into the empty parking lot where the kitten fosters eagerly awaited our arrival.
My fatigue quickly disappeared as I relayed the information I learned about each kitten from the sanctuary owner—the distinguishing marks, the behavioral quirks, who needs to stay together, and the meaning of their chosen names.
As the fosters marveled, laughed, and cared, I felt at home with people I’d never met.
Before we said our goodbyes, the owner of the local rescue pulled me aside.
“We could really use you your spark at the shelter,” she said. “Would you think about maybe attending some of the Adoption Days, just to talk to the folks who are looking to adopt?”
“Like an Animal Ambassador?” I said excitedly, my five-year-old heart barely able to contain itself.
“Yes. Just making people feel comfortable, answering questions, letting the animals shine. You are so good at that.”
You are so good at that.
That’s what she was saying.
You are so good at caring.
It was the first time in the 2022 Summer of Despair that my tender heart seemed less of a problem and more of a solution.
Walking around in a state of Red Alert, when breaking news overlaps with more breaking news, was starting to take a serious toll on my mental health.
I’d confided in my friend, Kerry, that the number of issues facing our country right now was so overwhelming that I felt myself shutting down. Kerry encouraged me to listen to what my heart was telling me I needed right now. That is why I accepted the request to transport eleven kittens so they could have a chance at a better life.
And through that long car ride with the non-animal person who loves me…
And through that chorus of mewing kittens…
And through that drop-off meeting with kind fosters…
And through that moment of being seen by the rescue owner…
I no longer wanted to shut down; I wanted to show up.
“Action is always an antidote for despair.” — Dr. Mary Pipher
I read that profound statement in an article my dad sent me last week. He always knows what my heart needs, and I knew who to call in for the job.
My younger self – uninhibited, brave, curious, and fully alive.
And I share this story today in hopes that you might call your younger self into the fight against daily despair.
Grab your lane and let no one tell you what is worth fighting for.
You don’t need anyone’s permission to care.
And caring is what you do so well.
I know because you are here.
And I am so grateful you are here so I can tell you this:
“We could really use your spark in the world.”
In future history books, you and I (and our younger selves) will be the good news.
October 27–29, 2023
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