I’ve been turned intently inward since my father’s death two weeks ago today, trying to focus on the things that need to be done (obituary, memorial planning, separation of his worldly goods etc.) but a couple of things have lifted me out of my self-pity and reminded me of the true nature of giving – and how lucky I am to receive.
I’ve gotten some beautiful flower arrangements in recent weeks – expensive ones with exotic lilies and beautiful vases. They were all enormously appreciated and helped heal my wounded heart. Then today my cleaning lady of two decades came for her twice-monthly visit. With five children to support and married to a gardener, I knew money has always been an issue for her. So when she shyly handed me some fresh-cut flowers from her tiny garden wrapped in newspaper, I just dissolved.
And after a year-end donor campaign for Coastside Feral Care was over, during which some kind and well-to-do friends wrote some generous checks, I was alerted in recent weeks by PayPal that a $30 donation had come in from a friend in the East Bay who had adopted two feral kittens from me a couple of years ago. Janine said in a note that it was from her seven-year-old son, Wagner. Every six months, she explained, her kids donate a portion of their allowance to a charity and this is the cause that Wagner wanted to support. Again, I dissolved.
Further, she asked, could they come sometime and see how Wagner’s money is spent? I said I would be delighted, and on a cold morning while my father was in his final days, Janine brought her three kids over to the coast and went with me on my morning rounds. My rounds, which always lift my spirits, took on an almost physical joy on that day. So anxious to interact with the kitties, it was near-impossible for Wagner and his twin, Michael, to restrain themselves when Janine cautioned them to watch quietly from a distance, and yet they did admirably. They asked questions in whispered tones (“could one of these cats be related to Charlotte and Wilbur?” “where do they go in the rain?”) and were amazed by how happy some of the kitties looked.
Janine and her husband Matt may not even realize the amazing lessons they are imparting by both adopting former ferals, and by raising their kids to be excellent animal custodians. If you can watch this video of three-year-old Wagner (and equally little Wilbur) without turning to mush, you’re made of stronger stuff than I am.
It’s sweet to see him try to contain his toddler energy and not play too rough with Wilbur. And now three-plus years later, he and his siblings went on my rounds with me. What amazed me is that they weren’t forced into giving up a holiday morning, they genuinely wanted to be there to see how homeless kitties are helped.
These two anecdotes recalled to me a quote I loved by Kahlil Gibran. “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”
How much more precious is a gift of allowance money or garden flowers from those who have little? And how lucky am I to have been the recipient?
Such awareness softens the blow of my loss. I am graced, and grateful. Thank you, St. Francis, for the reminder.