I remember being around 6 or 7 years old and finding a tiny bit of cactus, with scraggly little roots, laying in a small puddle on the side of the road as we went on our nightly walk. I picked it up and cradled it carefully in my hands until we got home. My dad kept telling me it probably wouldn't survive, but I asked him to plant it anyway, so he did. I don't know why, but I so badly wanted that "baby cactus" to live. And it did. Almost 30 years later it sits in my dads house, as big as me and still flourishing. I did the same with some sunflowers in our backyard... they ended bigger than me & so bright and beautiful. And the same with some discarded seeds of corn that I got to sprout in a shoebox lid... they ended up in the garden and produced tiny ears of corn.
I have a black thumb now. I can get nothing to grow no matter how hard I try. But I still have that same instinct to nurture... which is why we have 4 mutty fur balls: one found in a river in the dead of winter with ice hanging from her fur, one found at the pound meowing louder than anyone else, one found emaciated in a bush unable to even move, and the last one found wandering on the side of the road soaking wet and covered in mange. Fluffy puppies and perfect kitties? Sure they are adorable; but the helpless, pitiful ones are the ones who grab at my heart.
I've tried hard to get my own family to jump on the "help your fellow living creatures" band wagon. And they do for the most part. If my daughter had her way, our home would be a zoo for all of the disenfranchised animals of the world. My sons will take on bullies bigger than themselves to protect someone being picked on. And every year before Christmas my kids spend all day working hard, doing manual labor at their grandparents to earn money to sponsor a needy child's Christmas. My Husband has been late to work on several occasions because he's stopped to help a stranger stranded on the side of the road. But I want more from us all. I want to spend our holidays volunteering at soup kitchens, I want us to play bingo with the old folks at the nursing home, I want us to do it all. Unfortunately my family has hated every time we've done one of those things. They don't like their holidays spent away from the comfort of home, and old people "creep them out." I suppose I could do it alone, but I'm selfish too really... I don't want to spend what little time I have with my family away from them and I don't want to spend my holidays without them.
I know when our kids are grown and out of the house it will be easier for me to do all of these things. I know my husband will be more open to it as well. So I guess in the meantime I will just have to content myself with the smaller acts of kindness I'm able to do now and save the big world-changing stuff for later.
Photograph by: Meh
(My Kitteh We Found Under a Wheelbarrow)