Category Archives: Kindness

Money Well Spent

Dang, I sighed dramatically under my breath as I stood outside the Hotel Pacific in the early morning darkness.  I had been standing outside on the tiled front steps in the cool morning air since 4:45 am.  The private driver who would be taking me to the airport for my flight to Alice Springs was scheduled to pick me up around 5.  In my rush to shower, dress, and pack, I had completely forgotten to grab my two bottles of water and packages of cookies that I had placed in the small refrigerator in my room the night before.  I didn’t even think about the water and snacks until I was already standing outside and a large, white van was coming up the long, curved driveway towards me.  I told myself it wasn’t a big deal, but I had been carefully watching my cash ever since I had arrived in Australia a week ago.  I still had ten days left on this adventure and I didn’t want to run out of money.  Although most places accepted credit cards, I needed to use cash to buy simple things like drinks and snacks.  I also needed tip money to offer to all of the various employees at different establishments to thank them for their wonderful service.

As far as cash was concerned, I had followed the advice of my travel agent.  When I had asked Ken how much money I should bring with me to Australia, he had suggested, “Just take about a hundred to a hundred and fifty dollars with you for drinks and tips, and then charge everything else.”  His reasoning was very valid.  According to Ken, people make the mistake of exchanging hundreds of dollars and don’t realize the high fees they have to pay.  If people don’t use all of the money in Australia, they have to pay another fee to change the cash back to American dollars.  Plus, Ken told me that a lot of people call the travel agency to complain that they still have Australian dollars when they return to America, and the travelers usually get upset when the agency can’t do anything to help them get the full value of their money.  “Besides,” Ken had continued, “cash can be lost or stolen, and it’s gone.  Your credit cards can be easily canceled and replaced.”

Ken’s financial recommendation had made perfectly good sense to me, so I decided to exchange just 160 American dollars for Australian cash at the Los Angeles airport before I caught my flight to Brisbane.  At the time, I had felt secure about following Ken’s advice but now going into the second week of my expedition, I wasn’t as confident.  I really felt that I had to watch every dollar (American and Australian) for the rest of my journey.  So leaving behind the bottles of water at 2 dollars each and packages of cookies for 3 dollars each seemed like a really big deal to me.

Everyone in Cairnes, Australia, had been so incredibly sweet and friendly that I was sure the hotel staff would let me back into my room if I told them that I had forgotten something.  But now, it was too late.  The driver had stopped the van directly in front of me and was climbing out from behind the wheel.  As the man walked over to me, I whispered a good morning and was surprised to receive only a rushed and hushed grunt in reply.  I decided not to say anything more as I settled into the back seat and fastened my seat belt.  The driver quickly stowed my luggage into the back compartment of the van, and effectively slammed the door before walking around to the driver’s seat and climbing in behind the wheel.  He silently started the engine and drove away from the hotel.

As the man maneuvered the van onto the highway, I quickly reached into my purse and pulled out a five-dollar bill.  I wanted to make sure I was ready to tip the driver as soon as we arrived at the airport.  I knew it was customary to tip my private drivers but I had made an embarrassingly bad mistake on my first day in Australia.  On August 26th, I had arrived in Brisbane, which was my first stop in Australia before I traveled onto Cairnes, Alice Springs, and Sydney.  I felt like I was in a movie as I walked off the plane, and there was my driver holding up an ipad with my name flashing across the screen.  That driver had been incredibly polite and informative as he drove me around the city to the Hotel Meridian.  As we wove in and out of traffic, the man told me about his trips to America and pointed out all of the amazing Brisbane sites.  The drive was enjoyable and comfortable until we arrived at the hotel.  The driver had stopped the car, opened my door, and then pulled my suitcase out of the trunk.  Then he stood on the sidewalk with me for a few minutes as he pointed out the different shops and restaurants that were located close to the hotel.  It suddenly dawned on me that he was waiting for a tip, but I had one small problem.  I had received only 20-dollar bills when I exchanged money in LA and then had walked right off the plane and into the waiting car with my driver when I had arrived in Brisbane.  I had no available change on me to tip the driver and I didn’t think it was polite to ask for money back on a tip.  So, I just awkwardly stood on the sidewalk outside the Hotel Meridian and responded with “Wow,” and “That’s great” as my private driver kindly continued to act as my personal tour guide, too.  Finally, he must have realized that there was no tip forthcoming and yet he continued to behave kindly towards me.  He shook my hand and wished me a great trip while I profusely thanked him for his kindness…but I still felt terrible!  The man had been so nice to me, and I had stiffed him on a tip.  I swore then that I would never allow that situation to happen again.  I told myself that I would kindly give to the drivers and all of the people who were helping to make my Australian journey a once in a lifetime experience.

And now, here I was on my way to the airport for my early morning flight contemplating whether I should give my current driver any money.  I didn’t want to be inconsiderate and yet at the same time, the man was somewhat rude as he continued to drive in silence and blatantly ignored me.  Of course, I wasn’t upset about the initial service.  The man had only been hired by my travel agent to get me to the airport and that was exactly what he was doing.  I was grateful for his assistance, so he did deserve the tip in that regard.  However, I just wasn’t sure at this point how to approach the man.  He wasn’t friendly.  He really didn’t seem to want anything to do with me.  Would it be awkward for both of us if I tried to give him a tip?  I had kept the five-dollar bill gripped in my hand as I contemplated the issue on the drive to the airport.  I had finally made up my mind that when we arrived at our destination, I would say a polite thank you, but not push the issue any further.

I was just about to shove the money back into my overstuffed bag when the van suddenly came to an abrupt stop.  I leaned forward and gazed out the large, clean window.  After a tense journey, we had arrived at the domestic flight terminal of the Cairnes airport.  The driver exited the vehicle, walked around the side of the van, and swung open the door by my seat.  Then, as I unhooked my seat belt and climbed out, the driver walked around to the back of the van, and retrieved my luggage for me.  He walked towards me and placed the suitcase down by my feet.  I said, “Thank you” as the driver nodded his head but didn’t say a word.

And then, before I realized what was happening, and without thought, I raised my right arm and held out my hand.  And suddenly the man’s hand was brushing against mine as I pushed the five-dollar bill towards him.  I hadn’t planned to do this, but for some reason, in the moment, I felt a sudden need and urgency to give him the tip.

Then, the driver stared directly into my eyes as he held onto the cash and, by chance, my hand as well.  I suddenly felt as if, in the pale darkness, I could clearly see him.  He was an older man, probably in his mid-60s.  He was very tall and so thin that his crisp, white, button-down shirt and black slacks seemed too big for his slight build.  The driver had a skinny, white mustache that lined his upper lip.  Both of his hands suddenly wrapped around my fingers as I stared into his eyes and noticed the deep, sad lines that were etched into the rough skin of his face.  I noticed the thin, gray wisp of hair that rested across his forehead.  Then I suddenly saw into this man’s soul as he said to me in the softest of voices, “Oh, no, you don’t really need to do this.”

“No, please,” I answered, “it’s okay.  Please, take it.  I want you to have it.”

And suddenly, as the day was slowly beginning to brighten with the sunrise, I could see the tears coming into the man’s eyes as he whispered to me, “Are you sure?  Are you sure you want to give this to me?”

And of that moment, I was absolutely positive about the situation.  “Yes,” I honestly told him, “I really want you to have the money.”

“Thank you,” he whispered as he gave my hand a gentle squeeze and tears started to careen in crooked lines down his face, “Thank you so much.”

“You’re welcome,” I answered.  “Thank you for the ride.”

He smiled at me then as he wished me a good flight.  He let go of my hand and I watched as he walked around the van and got back into the driver’s seat.  As he drove away from the curb, I grabbed the handle of my suitcase and walked into the terminal with my mind and heart full of gratitude.  I was so thankful to be in Australia.  I was so happy to be going to see Ayer’s Rock.  I was so grateful to the driver who got me to the airport on time.  And I was so thankful that I had followed my heart and gave the man the five dollars.  I don’t really know what had prompted me to offer the tip to the driver.  I usually tended to shy away from people who are difficult or intimidating.  But there was something about this man that even in his quiet irritation was good and kind.

I thought of the way the man had held my hand with tears gleaming in his eyes as he accepted such a small, simple token of my gratitude.  It was five dollars…just five dollars…and yet it had made such a big difference to another person.  For some reason, that small gesture had completely changed the man’s attitude.  I guess it is true that no one ever knows the private battles other people are facing.  We never really know what another person is going through.  It’s sad sometimes that we just always respond to the current moment.  We get angry if we think someone has been rude to us.  We forget that sometimes people are rude because they have just lost a job or a loved one; maybe they haven’t had a chance to sleep, or eat, or they haven’t been feeling well.  Our minds sometimes don’t always stretch to think about what another person is going through.  If we all could just touch one person in some small way when the opportunity arises, especially when we have the chance to offer hope to someone who may be suffering in some way we don’t understand, what a great world this would be.

This man was a good soul and maybe he was just having a bad morning.  That doesn’t make him a bad person.  In my mind, I know, my silent driver deserved to be treated with respect regardless of his initial attitude.  Hopefully, my simple gesture of gratitude had helped turn his day around.  It amazing how we have the power to affect each other in a good and blessed way just by being kind.

After checking in at the counter and receiving my boarding pass, I walked over to the food court to buy breakfast and some coffee.  I no longer worried about spending money.  I felt so blessed as I thought about the man and the five dollars I had given him.  As I sipped my coffee, I smiled.  That tip was the best five dollars I had ever spent.

 

 

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The Perfect Holiday Gifts!

I really wasn’t trying to be difficult.  I wasn’t trying to be argumentative.  I wasn’t trying to cause stress or anxiety.  Instead, I was being completely honest.  Whenever anyone asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I always gave the same truthful answer.

“Nothing,” I always said to all of my friends and family members whenever they asked about Christmas presents.  There honestly wasn’t anything I wanted.  I already had everything I needed to be happy.  I have good food, clean water, safe shelter.  I have books and music.  I have clothes, a job, a car.  I have my five senses—and, many times, a sixth.  According to a lot of people, I have an overabundance of emotions…and they are probably right!  I consistently laugh, cry, and love without boundaries.  I have family, even though I may get on everyone’s nerves sometimes.  I live with three dogs who love me, and a cat that is still on the fence but is slowly getting used to me.  I have friends who may not always be in my life but are always there for me when needed.  I have freedom for adventure and travel.

What more could I possibly want, especially on the holiest day of the year?

As I have gotten older, the traditions of Christmas have changed for me.  For the past several years, I haven’t decorated trees, or put up wreaths and holly, or accepted presents.  I usually like to spend Christmas alone in meditation.  Some people find this unusual but for me it is the best way to honor the Savior without the distraction and stress that usually comes with the holiday.  I enjoy simple pleasures.

For example, I woke up at around 2 am on Christmas morning.  I climbed out of bed and walked into the living room.  I had a strong desire to look out of the big picture window and stare at the dark night sky and gaze at the stars.  But instead of darkness and stars, I find a night white with quietly falling snow.  I sat snuggled up in a blanket on the living room couch as I leaned towards the window and watched the snowflakes magically dancing across the front lawn.  I prayed, meditated, and sang songs Christmas carols to myself.  My mind also kept swirling around the events of the day.  The afternoon of Christmas Eve, 2017, was spent going out to lunch with my brother, sister-in-law, and nephew.  The day was full of laughter as my brother and nephew tried to “out-funny” each other.  I tried to compete with them, too, but I couldn’t keep up with their quick wits and sly one-liners.  I’m usually laughing too hard at their comedic challenge to think of anything funny to say.  But that’s okay, because I have since become one of the best laughers around.  This afternoon was no different; the event ended again with my brother mockingly yelling to his son, “You’re grounded for being funnier than I am.”  And again, I found myself laughing joyfully before I finally got up from the couch and went back to bed to snuggle warmly and contentedly under the covers.

When I awoke again on Christmas morning, I carefully drove my car across the dusting of snow on the side streets to the local Quiktrip.  I parked in a narrow space at the far end of the small lot.  I grabbed my purse and climbed out of my vehicle.  As I walked toward s the entrance, I noticed a young woman holding the door open for several people who walked into the convenient store.  Her back was towards me so all I could see was her long, dark blond hair that flowed over the collar and down the back of her black and white checked winter coat.  I approached the woman and circled around in front of her to get to the door.  I reached out my hand to take the door from her, but she pulled back away from me before swinging her hand towards the entrance.

“No, please, go ahead,” the woman said to me as I now saw her sweet face and beautiful, big smile.

“Oh, you don’t have to do that,” I said to her.  But then I stopped and smiled at her as something my brother, Tony, always said to me.  Whenever I refused gifts or tried to be defiantly independent, Tony would tell me, “Don’t deny other people the right to be good to you.”  So, now, I smiled at this young woman and realized that she was giving me a gift.  Kindness, the willingness to do simple things for other people, is a dying art lately.  So, now, I looked at this woman and said, “That’s very sweet of you.  Thank you so much.”

As I walked through the door the woman held open for me, she happily shouted out, “Merry Christmas.”

“Thank you.  You, too,” I said back as I stepped into the warmth of the crowded store.  I couldn’t help laughing as I looked around at the other patrons.  Everyone was wrapped up in a heavy coat to ward off the winter chill.  And yet, underneath the coats, everyone was wearing cozy, colorful, flannel pajamas or tattered, comfortable sweats.  I have found my people, I thought with a laugh.  I, too, had just slipped on an old jacket over my sweats before leaving the house.  I love people best at their natural quirkiness.  I love people who are just as comfortable walking around in nightwear as they are in business suits.  And, of course, today was a day like no other as everyone politely dodged around each other as they whispered, “Excuse me,” “No, you first,” and “Merry Christmas.”  I listened to the joyful, happy voices as I paid for my coffee and walked back out to my car.

I spent the rest of Christmas day in quiet contemplation.  I was feeling blissful and at peace, just the way Christmas is supposed to be.

So, see, there wasn’t anything I needed for Christmas.  But I had received the best gifts of all: laughter, kindness, peace…and once again, I had received from God and the Savior the perfect Christmas holiday!

 

 

 

My Perfect Roses

Last Sunday, my thoughts were just as drab and boring as the world I had been walking through.  I felt trapped as I made my way down the main aisle of the backroom of my workplace.  I was surrounded on all sides by dull, concrete floors, light gray steel beams, and plain brown cardboard boxes.  But then just like in the Wizard of Oz when black and white scenes suddenly blossom into brilliant color, I noticed something crimson red shining just to my left side.  I turned around and gasped as I caught my breath.

“Oh, those are beautiful!”  I sighed as I came to a complete dreamlike stop.  I suddenly forgot why I had been in such a hurry as I focused on the long stem roses that were lying in a blue basket.  The black handle of the square basket was resting across Bernard’s left arm.

“Do you want a rose?” the assistant manager asked me.

“Really,” I smiled.  “I can have one?”

“Of course, you can,” he answered as he offered the basket out to me.  I thanked him profusely and grabbed the stem of a large blooming red rose.  I pulled the luscious flower from the basket and held it up to my face to breath in the delicious scent of the petals.  “Okay,” Bernard said after I had been completely intoxicated with the sweet aroma.  “You have to let me take your picture now.”

That’s when I noticed that Bernard was holding a digital camera in his opposite hand.  I’ve always been very uncomfortable in front of cameras.  So, now, I shook my head.  “No, thanks,” I told him.  “I’ll have to give you the rose back.”  I started to place the beautiful, perfect creation back into the basket.  Refusing the picture was actually a graceful way out for me because I had suddenly realized that the roses actually had a special purpose.  The flowers were for Mommas.  I had completely forgotten through the course of my busy workday that it was Mother’s Day.  I don’t have children of my own and my mother had passed on seven years ago.  So, of course, I don’t really have a reason or a right to celebrate Mother’s Day and, honestly, it is a holiday that makes me really sad.  I sighed wistfully as I placed the rose back into the basket.

“No, it’s okay,” Bernard told me.  “You can have a rose.  Go ahead and keep it…and I won’t force you to have your picture taken either.”

I just shook my head no and slowly began to back away.  I didn’t deserve the flower.  “Thank you, Bernard,” I told him.  “I do appreciate it but I’m not a mother.  I don’t have any children.  These roses should go to mothers today.

Bernard just laughed then and said, “It doesn’t matter.  You can have a rose, too, if it makes you happy.  Come on.  Take one.”  He held the basket out to me again.

I couldn’t stop smiling now as I grabbed hold of the stem of the flower I had just returned and pulled it back out of the basket.  “Thank you,” I told him.

“That’s fine,” Bernard answered.  “Just enjoy it.

And I did.  Holding the rose and running my fingers over the red, feather soft petals made my day a little brighter.  I was really missing my mother and the rose made me think of her.  I thought about the rose bush my mother had planted and carefully nurtured in the corner of our backyard when I was a child.  But then, thinking about my mother who had sacrificed so much for me, I couldn’t help feeling a little guilty.  I wondered if I had taken a rose away from a woman who was much more deserving than I could ever be.  Did I just steal a rose from one of the many gracious women who went through the pain of childbirth and suffered sleepless nights taking care of sick children?

Honestly, I would have loved to have been one of those women.  But certain life situations and health problems such as ovarian cysts and uterine tumors prevented me from feeling worthy of a rose.  But I also had to admit that the flower and Bernard’s kindness, the way he included me in this simple tribute, made me smile and brightened my day.

A week later, Sunday, May 20, 2017, I was back at work and having a rather bad day.  I kept repeating to myself New Age affirmations to help me make it through my work hours.  “A good or bad day is just my perception.”  “I can use my power of positive thinking to make this a better day.”  But nothing seemed to help.  I spent the day struggling with even the most minor tasks.  I just couldn’t seem to adjust to the stress of the day and my frustration was pushing me to the point of tears.

As I struggled to pull myself together that afternoon, I suddenly heard someone calling out to me.  I turned around to see  Charles standing behind me.  “Here, this is for you, Jamie,” he said as he held out his hand to me.  “Take this and hold onto it until your day becomes better.”  I stared down at the small, red rose resting in his palm, and my heart suddenly filled with hope and gratitude.  I was so touched by Charles’s sweet gesture.  “Thank you so much,” I answered.  “That’s so sweet of you.”   I reached out and took the rose from his hand.  As Charles walked away , I pinned the rose to my shirt and immediately began to feel much better.  What an amazing blessing that gift was!  And now, after all of the positive thinking I tried to force on myself, that simple rose made me feel so much better.

I thought now about both roses I had received over the last two Sundays and I realized something.  Though I regret not being a mother, though I am ashamed of myself for not handling my frustration better, people still cared about me.  I don’t have to be anything in particular or do anything special for people to think of me.  I had no reason to feel inadequate or ashamed or lacking in my life.  I don’t have to have a great job or a lot of money.  Instead, all I had to do was be kind and have a good heart and there will always be people to support and help me.

My coworker’s kindnesses reminded me of the love Jesus Christ holds for all of us.  He knows our regrets and our failings and yet He continues to love and support us anyway.  He continues to help us grow strong and beautiful and blossom into special spirits….just like my beautiful perfect roses.  I am so blessed!

Thank you so much, Bernard and Charles, for your kindness…and my roses!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vibrant Red

It all started with a very simple comment.  A co-work looked at me the other day and asked, “When are you going to dye your hair again?”

I was a little surprised by her question.  It was true that I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to my hair lately.  Life has been so busy that I really hadn’t given a lot of thought to my style or color.  Over the last several weeks, I have just been washing my hair in the evenings and then giving it a few quick strokes with a brush before rushing off to work in the morning.  I don’t fuss with my hair for the rest of the day.  This is fine for me.  I have never been an “every hair in place” kind of girl.  I like my hair wild.  I admit though that sometimes it looks a little too wild, a little too untamed.  I don’t think I’m lazy.  I just have more important concerns than the color or cut of my hair.

Yet, I felt myself cringe a little as I looked at my coworker.  Her hair is always creatively styled and her makeup always looks professionally applied.

I hesitated for just a moment before answering her question.  Unfortunately, my reply wasn’t very motivating.  “I don’t know,” I answered.  “I’ll take care of it when I have more time.”

“Well, it doesn’t look bad right now,” she assured me, “but your color is kind of faded.  Your hair is the color of a peach.  I always picture you as a vibrant redhead.”

Her words made me smile. A vibrant redhead.  I had experimented with that color in the past.  I loved it, even though, I reluctantly admit, that years ago, it also made me very uncomfortable.

When I was born, I was completely bald; there was not a single strand of hair on my smooth, tiny head.  As I grew into a toddler, I had just a few wisps of pale blond hair.  My mother always loved to tell the story that when I was three years old, she had pulled the few strands of my hair up to the top of my head and secured them there with a small plastic barrette.  While we were at the grocery store, a man kept staring at me before walking over to the basket I was sitting in and looking down at the top of my head.  “Oh, she does have hair,” the man said to my mother then.  “I thought you had just stuck that clip straight down into the top of that poor baby’s head.”  Mom always thought that was adorable.  The story though haunted and embarrassed me for most of my life until I finally learned to laugh at myself.

But awkward comments were to be expected.  My childhood hair was always very fine and pure platinum blond.  I was very different from my both sisters who had thick hair.  My oldest sister was a dark brunette, while my other sister was a redhead.  We looked like a rainbow when we stood side by side.  The full light spectrum was always reflected off our hair whenever we were together.  I was the lightest, the palest everywhere we went; I was the one who always seemed to fade into the background.  Being a very shy child, I didn’t mind.  I rather liked it that way.

As I grew older, my hair darkened, until one day, when I was about 15, a neighborhood fried commented to me, “You’re going red!  Oh my gosh, you have red hair now!”

I was horrified!  I didn’t want to have red hair!  Red hair was so rare where I was growing up that my sister was continually teased about her coloring.  She was always noticed and the center of attention at any gathering.  I didn’t want that.  I wanted to stay pale and blonde and wallflower-y alone.  But I couldn’t fight it at the time.  Against my will, my platinum blond coloring continued to darken to auburn.

After a few years, as I slowly gained more confidence, I grew into my hair and I was proud of the color.  I wasn’t vain about my appearance.  There was still too much about my body that I hated.  I wasn’t thin; my long feet turned out awkwardly.  But I started to appreciate my red hair color which made me look much different from other people….in a good way.  I liked the idea that my hair was uniquely my own.

My hair wouldn’t stop changing color, though.  It went from a pale blond to a light red to a dark red until gentle gray strands began to shoot out all over my head.  I started to get gray hair at an early age.  I was only 26 when the first few gray strands appeared.  I must have inherited this trait from my maternal grandmother.  Grandma Edie was completely gray by the time she was 27.

Okay, I may have slowly learned to enjoy my red hair but I wasn’t so appreciative of the gray, even if it was premature.  It just made me feel old and I cried every time I was asked at a fast food restaurant if I wanted the senior discount.

It was time to dye my hair.

At first, I decided to relive my childhood and dyed my hair platinum blond like Marilyn Monroe.  But I’m not Marilyn and the color just once more made me look pale and washed out.  My life had changed; I had changed, and I was no longer accepting the wallflower position.  Red is the color of my soul.  But just like figuring out the dosage of prescription drugs, it took several experiments with different products, mixtures, and timing to get the right tint of red that made me feel the most comfortable.  Some reds were just too brassy for me; others made me look like a large carrot; a few dyes turned me into a pumpkin head.  I even tried burgundy once and really liked it until I realized it had faded to pink.  Yes, that’s right, I walked around with pink hair for several weeks before I finally took the time to dye it again.

Several shades later, I finally found the hue I liked the best and thought was the most flattering for my features.  I loved being strawberry blond.  It wasn’t too dark for me and the red shined brightly out in the sun.

This was the shade I had been using when my coworker made her comment to me.  The problem wasn’t with the dye but with the fact that I just hadn’t taken the time to touch it up again.  My gray roots were beginning to show, but I still didn’t really care.  It was true, though.  I was a peach with rotting, gray areas.  I decided to freshen myself up and started shopping through hair dyes that afternoon.  I reached for the box containing my usual strawberry blond formula but then stopped.  A vibrant red?  I had tried that before and many people made comments that my hair was a spark, a fire, a beacon, a siren.  But…vibrant red…Yeah!  That’s me!  Feeling adventurous and frivolous, I bought the red dye and hurried home before I could change my mind.

That afternoon, I mixed up the color and quickly applied it to my hair.  I wasn’t very careful with it.  I wanted to hurry up with the processes.  I’m not girly-girl enough to spend a lot of time on my hair.  I really didn’t want to mess with it.  I put the dye on and waited half an hour before rinsing it off.  I wrapped a towel around my head and squeezed out any additional water.  I took off the towel and didn’t really pay much attention to the color.  My hair is usually dark when it’s wet…no big deal.  I was sure it would be much lighter once it was dry.

Um…wrong!

About an hour later, I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror.  “Oh, my God, what have I done!?”  My hair was certainly vibrant red, the color of blood, Midwest harvest summer sunsets, cherries, Mars, and measles.  I was horrified…it was horrible.

Too make the situation worse, my sister-in-law, Mary, was very nice as she complimented me on the new hair color…but then kindly pointed out there was a big problem.  Because I had been in such a hurry to complete the process, I hadn’t realized that I had missed applying the mixture to a large chunk of hair in the back of my head.  Peachy strands stuck noticeable out through the red.  I was shocked as I stood with my back to the bathroom mirror holding up a hand mirror in order to stare at the back of my head.  But there was nothing I could do about it now.  I didn’t have any of dye left.  And besides, it was late.  I needed to get some sleep for work the next day.  I went to bed knowing I had no way to fix the situation.  I spent most of the night telling myself all kinds of things: My color doesn’t matter.  I am not my hair.  I cannot be defined by the way I look.  Who cares what other people think or say?  Other peoples’ opinions shouldn’t matter to me.  It’s only hair, just dead protein.  I can change it again.  I could cut it all off and it would grow back again.  No big deal.

But it was no use.  I have to admit that I, who never really fussed over my hair, felt stupid and ugly.  Maybe I was upset because this was absolute proof to me that I am completely klutzy with hair and make-up.  I would never be beautiful.  I can handle that actually.  I know I am a good person.  But I didn’t know if I was ready to face the awkward comments from people concerning the way I looked.  I didn’t know how to respond.  I didn’t know what excuse I could give.  What was I going to do?

The next morning, I walked into work with the collar of my coat pulled up over the back of my head.  I ran down the back hallway to my locker and yanked it open.  I suddenly sighed with relief as I discovered the answer to my dilemma.  I had forgotten that yesterday my supervisor had handed out Santa hats to everyone.  I never liked wearing the hats which usually were too big for me and put a lot of static into my fine hair.  But now, I grabbed the hat and plucked it down onto my head.  The peachy patch in the back of my head was now covered.  I couldn’t tuck all of my hair underneath the hat so I allowed bright red strands to hang around my face and shoulders.

But then, something really unusual happened.  It was so strange, I still don’t quite understand it.  Almost everyone who saw me that day complimented me on the way I look.  I heard endless comments of “Wow!  Love the hair!”  “  That’s a great red!”  “  What a beautiful shade!”

Now, of course, I didn’t let anyone see the peach patch in the back of my head, which could have easily changed everyone’s opinion.  I also admit that I wasn’t very gracious about the compliments.  I was so taken by surprise by everyone’s comments that I responded by saying, “Th…Thank you…?  I really don’t like it myself.”  Or I said, “Thanks…I’m trying to get used to it myself.” Why did I respond that way?  Why couldn’t I have just said “Thank you” and walked away?  But never feeling very secure with my looks, I felt so ugly and unsure of myself that compliments were hard to accept. I felt the need to apologize for who I was and what I had done.  I had to keep insisting to everyone that I was unattractive.

That evening I bought more hair dye and corrected the error I had made the day before when I colored all but the back of my head.

Now, my hair was completely vibrantly red…and I smiled as I looked at it.  It suddenly felt so right!  Yeah, maybe it was attractive.  Yeah, maybe I did look good.  As I brushed out my hair, I had thought about the compliments I had received that day.  I realized then that opinions didn’t matter.  No one’s thoughts about another person were important.  And hair is such a trivial matter.  But what I responded to now was everyone’s kindness when I was feeling so low and unsure of myself.  I smiled as I thought of everyone’s loving, positive reactions when I was feeling so ugly.  That’s all that really seemed to matter.

So now my hair remains a bright red.  I always loved red but was always worried about people laughing at me or teasing me.  I realized now that the reason I wasn’t comfortable with Mars red was because I was afraid of other people’s opinions.  Even now, there are strangers who walk by me and groan, “God, that’s BRIGHT red!”  Or they call me “beacon.”  But it doesn’t matter now, because I feel good.  It’s funny how I love bright red hair when I love myself.  I need to trust myself and know what I like and not worry about other people’s thoughts.  Hair doesn’t define the person I am inside.  I know who I am so what matters what happens to my body?  I know what my flaws are…I know where my scars are…but it’s strange how they don’t matter if I don’t focus on them.  I am very happy with my hair if I don’t give it too much attention.

I’ll keep my hair red for now.  It is uniquely and personally me.  It defines who I am and is part of my journey.  Maybe someday, I’ll change it again but right now I feel happy.  Besides, I am not my hair…I could dye it purple if that’s the way I feel.

Um….someday…

I smile as I think now of my coworker.  She was right…

I am a vibrant red!

A Special Messenger

In the past, I didn’t always talk or write about the odd occurrences that happened in my life.  I was always concerned that people would think that I was crazy or lying or “different.”  It used to embarrass me, but I don’t really worry about that any more.  I am proud that my life has always been somewhat unusual.  I like having strange things happen.  I love those “out of the blue” moments that make me wonder about life, miracles, and magic.  I have had incredible visions of angels who bring me messages and I have seen random ghosts drifting aimlessly beside me.  But the sudden, strange encounters I have with other people really inspire me.  I experienced another odd occurrence just last Saturday.

Up until that very moment, I hadn’t been feeling very comfortable or proud of myself.   I was feeling ashamed and frustrated.  I know I am not perfect and I certainly make my share of mistakes.  That doesn’t bother me.  I can always correct any errors I make and learn from the experience.  But there are times when it is difficult for me to forgive myself.  For instance, I can be snappish and disagreeable when I am physically not feeling well.  When I am tired or hungry, I admit that I am not the most pleasant person to be around.  I don’t like myself when I behave this way.  And sometimes I have a hard time forgiving myself for basically being human.

Last week, I was just feeling as if I didn’t fit in anywhere.  I felt like an absolute outcast.  I have always felt “different,” but for the last few days, I felt my situation more acutely.  My need to connect with other people was not being satisfied and my aloneness didn’t feel good this time.  I felt as if I was zigging while everyone else was zagging.  I was completely out of synch with the people around me.  I was continually saying the wrong things and being in the wrong place and feeling the wrong emotions and coming to all the wrong conclusions.  I don’t know if it was because of my personality or my attitude or my beliefs.  Instead of embracing my uniqueness like I normal do, this time I just felt lost and worthless.

So by last weekend, I was feeling down and depressed.  Maybe I was just overly exhausted.  My schedule can get crazy.  My main plan for this year was to take a hiatus from teaching and concentrate on writing full time.  But desperately needing health insurance, I took a job at a department store.  I work at the store early in the day, teach a few non-credit classes at the community college, and write late into the night.  I don’t know why but I am most creative at night and can be up until 2 or 3 am finishing up a single piece of work.  This schedule is mandatory but leaves me exhausted and cranky to people when I really want to connect.  It’s a vicious cycle that I know only I can break.  So Saturday, I decided to make a change in my attitude.  It actually wasn’t hard since the store was so busy that day.  It was the last weekend before Thanksgiving and the anticipation of the upcoming holiday made the day a little more exciting.

That afternoon, I was trying to complete my stocking work while assisting customers and mainly directing them around the store.  I suddenly noticed an older man wondering around lost in the middle of aisle 10 in the grocery department.  He had short, gray hair and a kind, clean-shaven face.  He wore tattered jeans and a brown leather jacket.

I approached the man and smiled at him.  “Sir, can I help you with something?”

He looked at me with a shy grin and said, “I just need to put this back and I can’t remember where I got it?”  He held out a box of Lean Cuisine to me.

“Oh, that’s fine,” I assured him.  “I’ll take care of it for you.”

I reached out my hand and took the box away from him.  That should have been the end of the encounter but then something strange happened.  The man told me thank you but he didn’t walk away.  He just stood there for a moment and stared at me.  His response caused me to behave in the same way.  I just stood awkwardly for a moment and stared back.  I was waiting to see if he had any other questions or problems.  But was fascinated by the fact that he didn’t move.  He didn’t make a single movement now.  His body stood mannequin still and straight, not a single muscle in his body moved a twitch.  He stood as if paralyzed in the moment.  His expression did not change, but his eyes began to glow.  I was captivated by his unusual eyes that slowly began to fade to a light gray and almost dissolved to a ghostly white.  An unusual spark began to glow behind his irises.  And then the man said to me, “Don’t worry, Jamie.  There are people just like you in heaven.”

My mouth fell open in surprise.  Why would he say that to me?  How could he possibly have known that I had been feeling like an outcast for the past several days?

Then the man turned and started to walk away.  I kind of made a fool of myself then because I suddenly giggled.  Yes, I actually giggled.  It was just a nervous reaction to his words.  Then the statement “God bless you” came tumbling out of my mouth.  I don’t know why I felt compelled to say this.  It just seemed like the appropriate response.  The man turned and looked at me again with his gray/white eyes and said, “And God has blessed you” before he walked behind one of the short, 3-foot wide fixtures that sat in the center of the main aisle.  As I thought about his words, I just stood there watching him as he walked behind the fixture….I waited…and waited…but he never came out the other side.  There was only one way in and out behind this fixture.  There was nowhere else for him to go.  He could only walk around the fixture.  Wondering about this, I walked over and peeked around the metal shelves of the fixture on the far side.  The man wasn’t there!  He wasn’t behind the fixture at all.  He was just gone!

I don’t know what had happened to the man, and sometimes, as I think over the situation, I wonder if he had even been human at all.  My mind sometimes pictures him as an angel, a messenger of God.  For he had brought me a message I needed to hear.  I know now that even if I am an outcast, God has not forsaken me.  I know now that even though I may struggle with my place on earth, there are people who cared about me in heaven.  I am never alone.  God and his many angels will always be with me and all people who believe.

 

 

 

 

Compassion

I needed a break.  I felt absolutely exhausted today.  Though I have been working hard all week, I didn’t feel physically tired.  No, I was instead emotionally stressed and overwhelmed.  The events of the past 72 hours have been difficult for everyone.  Because of the fallout from the election of November 8, 2016, I just felt the need to escape from all of the hatred and anger, the chaos and noise, the endless arguments and rhetoric.  Though I had kept myself personally out of the fray, the constant barrage of angry Facebook posts, disturbing news images, and self-righteous online articles has proven somewhat upsetting to my inner sense of peace and balance.  I wanted to be alone; I wanted to place my feet up and escape into a good book.  I decided to spend an hour or two this afternoon just relaxing in a fast food restaurant with a cup of tea and my own peaceful thoughts.  I had the foolish notion that I would be hidden and safe here away from all the turmoil of the outside world.  I was wrong.

I had had just a few minutes of peace before my attention was suddenly captured by an older man who walked directly in front of me.  I watched as the man slowly moved over to a table in the middle of the room.  The short, heavy-set man was dressed in gray slacks and a yellow plaid shirt.  Upon his gray, balding head were thick, wire-framed glasses, and a halo.  Though I have never had to wear one of these contraptions myself, I am familiar with halos.  I have had several friends who have had to use them.  Basically, a halo is a medical device designed to hold a patient’s head straight after a neck or spine injury.  It is constructed of short, steel rods that rise up from the patient’s shoulders and connect to a round piece of metal that surrounds the head.  The halo is secured in place by several small screws that are placed through the metal and directly into the patient’s skull.  The apparatus is lightweight but can be a little awkward for some patients who struggle with balance and stability.

I smiled at the man and said a silent prayer for him as he carefully sat down on a tall, brown stool next to a high, white table.  Though I found the man fascinating, I didn’t want to stare at him, of course, so I turned my attention back to my book.  After a moment, though, I looked up again when I heard him holler out, “Ketchup.  I want ketchup for my fries.”  His comment made me smile because he sounded just like a little boy.  I don’t know if it was his demeanor, his tone, or his words that made him sound so young.  I just grinned, though, as the man jumped up and down in his seat for a moment in happy anticipation of his meal.

A few minutes later, a thin, middle-aged woman with dark, shoulder-length hair and black-framed glasses walked over and sat down across from the man in the halo.  She placed a tray of food down on the table between them and the two began to eat their meal.

I returned to reading my book and enjoying my peace of mind when all of a sudden I heard the woman yell.  “Goddamn it!”  I looked up in surprise at the sound of the woman’s deep, strained voice as she pushed the angry words out through gritted teeth.  “Goddamn it!  Watch what you’re doing!”  The woman then sighed heavily as she threw the food she was holding down on the table.  “Look at you!  You have ketchup all over yourself now.”  The woman shouted as she got up from her seat and walked around the table.  She grabbed a napkin and started swiping at the man’s shirt.  “Goddamn it!” she snarled again.  “Look at this mess!”

I was horrified by her words and actions as she furiously swiped at the man’s sticky, stained shirt with the tattered, paper napkin.  I had no idea what the relationship was between the man and woman, but that didn’t matter.  I didn’t care if they were father and daughter or husband and wife.  What mattered was the way they related to each other and I was shocked as I heard the woman talk to the man as if he was a ten-year-old child.  How could she treat another human being like that, especially a person who was already dealing with a medical condition?  This woman actually had some nerve to…

And then suddenly she turned around and looked at me…

And I was surprised to see in her dark eyes a reflection of pain and heartache.

Our eyes met for just the briefest of moments before she looked away.  She quickly walked back over to her chair and sat down.  She looked at me one last time and I surprised myself by smiling at her.  She stared at me for a moment as an agonized look clouded her face before she looked away.  Though I hadn’t been happy with the way she had treated the man in the halo, when I looked into the woman’s eyes, I suddenly understood.

This wasn’t an evil woman.  This wasn’t a cruel woman.  This was a woman who must have been struggling to take care of this man for a very long time.  Oh, my God, she must be so tired!  Her stress and exhaustion must be completely overwhelming her.

And haven’t we all been guilty of doing the very same thing?  Haven’t we all screamed and yelled and cursed and been sarcastic and impatient and hateful when we have been tired or hungry or overwhelmed?  What possible right did I have to hate or criticize this woman when I have behaved the very same way at times myself?

If I witnessed the man being horribly abused, I would have definitely intervened.  But what I had witnessed was a kind woman caring for a sickly man and having a momentary loss of composure.  I don’t know this woman; I don’t know the situation.  But I do know I saw hurt, and pain, and exhaustion within the woman’s dark eyes during her sudden outburst.  A singular moment of being human, a flash of angry emotion, could not erase all of the time and effort and sacrifices she must be making on a daily basis for another human being.

Hoping I hadn’t embarrassed the woman, I turned my attention back to my book but I couldn’t focus on the words that were floating around on the page.  Instead, I prayed, “Dear God, thank you so much for letting me be compassionate in this moment.  Thank you for allowing me to understand this situation instead of being disrespectful and jumping to awful conclusions about this woman’s life and intentions.  Please let this man heal and please give this woman the strength and courage to take care of her family and help this man’s medical needs with a kind heart.”

As I finished my prayers, the couple stood up from their table and threw away their trash.  Slowly, they made their way to the exit door.  As the woman pushed and held the door open for the man, she looked back at me one more time.  I smiled at her and she smiled back at me with a shake of her head before stepping outside and letting the door close softly behind her.

I wanted to go back to my book then but I couldn’t focus.  Instead, I just sat my book aside and thought about the times I had misjudged and been unnecessarily critical of someone else’s life.  It is really true: you never really know what another person has been through.  You never really know the path another person is forced to walk and the cross he or she must carry.

And maybe even with all of the turmoil from the election, we can learn to really see each other, to understand what another soul may be suffering.  Maybe the only think that can make a difference now, while facing an unsure future, is how we treat each other, how we can show understanding, support, and love to each other.  Maybe in our own way we can learn to show compassion in such hard times.  It starts with us.  We have to make the difference.  It starts with our own understanding and ends with unconditional love.  It’s the only way we can maintain our humanity amidst such incredible chaos.

All Lives Matter…Even Furry Ones!

Last Friday, I decided to read through a few recent articles before I started to work on my writing assignments.  Unfortunately, once more nothing but bad news appeared on my computer screen.  I read about cop-involved shootings, protests, natural disasters, and other sad events.  After a while, I finally pushed myself away from the computer with a sigh.  I stood up, stretched, and walked into the bathroom as I thought about…

“OH, DOGS!”  I cried out as I saw the mess that was left on the cool, tiled floor.  We have a huge, fenced-in, lush backyard and puppy training pads laid out in the front room, and yet the dogs still choose to make their messes right in front of the bathtub.  With a groan, I quickly cleaned up the bathroom and then thoroughly scrubbed my hands.

After drying off and hanging the towel back on the rack, I left the bathroom and walked into the living room where two of our three dogs, Friskie and Cowboy, were comfortably snuggled down into the big, soft, cushiony pillows that make up the back of the sofa.  They like to climb up on top of the couch and then plunge their little bodies down into the pillows as if they are falling into quicksand.  Only their sweet, round, dark eyes and cold, wet noses are visible.  The third dog, Starburst, was cuddled up in a little, round, furry ball on the big, brown puppy pillow by the television.

“Alright, dogs,” I call out to them as I clapped my hands together to get their interest.  Starburst lazily raised up her head and scootched her furry, white and brown body forward.  Friskie and Cowboy slowly and clumsily pulled their bodies up from the cushions like lazy, little swamp monsters.  Once I had their full attention, I pointedly asked, “Who made the mess in the bathroom?”

Of course, none of the dogs would confess, even though Starburst and Cowboy looked directly at Friskie, who had lowered her head back down into the pillows.  Otherwise, Friskie refused to admit any wrongdoing.  “Alright, fine,” I answered, surprising myself by how much I sounded like my own mother.  “None of you did it.  The mess just made itself.  No, no, don’t get up.  I got it all cleaned up.  Just go back to sleep…”

And that’s when I suddenly noticed a large, nasty, runny, orangey, thick fluid on the carpet just a mere two inches away from the puppy pads.  I stared at this new mess in shock for a few seconds wondering which dog had been sick.  I was suddenly spurred into action, however, when little Starburst suddenly moved forward from her comfortable position on the puppy pillow and prepared to clean up the chunky fluid by licking at it.  (I know that’s really disgusting—but that’s the way it happened!)  Once again, feeling absolutely revolted, I quickly cleaned up this new mess as the dogs once more settled back down to sleep.  I was sincerely and totally grossed out.  I never had children, so I never had to deal with projectile vomit, gross diapers, and disgusting messes.  Fate sure was catching up with me now.

Finally, after the orange mess was cleaned up, I walked around the room and checked on all three dogs to make sure they were not sick.  When they seemed to be all right, I walked back to the bathroom to thoroughly scrub my hands clean once more.

A few minutes later, I decided to go to the kitchen to get some iced tea.  I walked through the living room…

…and that’s when I heard it…

I stopped for a moment and looked around the room.  What was that noise?

And then I heard it again…

UUUUHHHHH!

What was that?

UUUUUUUHHHHHHHH!

Oh, my gosh.  The noise was a very loud, low, deep sound with a scratchy-throated screech at the end.  It sounded just like a person gagging for breath as he or she was choking.  Choking?

I looked around and that’s when I noticed little Starburst.  She had now moved off of the puppy pillow and was lying on the hardwood floor of the dining room.  The deep, guttural noise she was making continued to get louder.

UUUUUUUHHHHHHH!  UUUUUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHH!

Oh, my gosh, Starburst was choking!  The dog was choking!

“Star?” I called out as I ran over and knelt down beside her.  I reached out my hand and gently touched her side.  But before I could say or do anything more, she yanked away from me as if my touch had hurt her.  She moved away and crawled underneath the table.  Even though she was further away from me, her gags had gotten louder.  I crawled underneath the table after her.  Now, when she saw me, Starburst suddenly lifted her right paw out as if she was reaching for a lifeline.  But her paw quivered twice before the rest of her body began to shiver violently.  Oh, my gosh, the little dog was starting to convulse!  Her whole tiny body was now shaking as she continued to gasp for air!

In a panic, I got up and grabbed my phone off the table.  I quickly pushed the touch-screen buttons to call my sister-in-law, Mary, who is the actual owner of the dogs.

“Hello,” Mary answered her phone sweetly and I felt horrible to have to give her such bad news.

“Mary, it’s Jamie,” I screeched.  I didn’t wait for her to respond.  “Starburst…”  I stuttered, “Starburst is sick.  She’s choking.  She can’t breathe and she started convulsing now.  What should I do?  Where are you?”

“Oh, my God,” Mary gasped.  “I’m nowhere near home right now.  I’m babysitting the grandkids.  I can’t leave them.  But I’m going to call someone to come help you, okay?  I’ll get someone over to the house really fast.”

“Okay, okay,” I answered as we hung up.  God, I had studied and taught abdominal thrust, CPR, and first aid for years, but would those techniques work on a little dog?  Could I possibly call 911?  I crawled back under the table.  Starburst now let me touch her, but I think it was just because she didn’t have the strength to pull away.  “Starburst,” I whispered to her.  “Little Starry…Baby…it’s going to be okay.”

UUUUUUHHHHH, Starburst replied to me.  She was still gagging and her little body was convulsing terribly.  I reached out and pulled her gently towards me.  I raised her head and stared down into her little face.  Oh, my God…Starry’s beautiful, soulful, brown eyes were completely unfocused now!

Oh, my God…  Her left eye stared lifelessly ahead while her right eye had rolled off to the far side.  Then both eyes suddenly began to roll to the back of her head.

That was it!  I pulled the dog out from under the table and held her tightly.  I got up from the floor with little Starburst in my arms and grabbed my keys off the table.  I was going to take the dog up to the vet’s office that was just a few blocks away on State Avenue and 78th street.  It was after 5 o’clock already, though.  I didn’t know if the office was still open but I hoped they would have some kind of emergency information posted somewhere by the front door.  I had to do something to help this tiny dog.  I love this dog so much.  “God, please,” I prayed as I ran into the living room.  “Please, God, please let this little dog be okay.  Please, God, don’t take this dog.”

UUUUUUUUHHHHHH!

I squeezed little Starry close to m y chest as I ran and prayed.  “Please, God…please, I love this dog.”

Just as I yanked open the front door, Starburst’s body suddenly stopped shaking.  There was one more hard UUUUUUUUHHHHHHH…

….and then silence.

No more movement…no more noise…

…just stillness… and silence…

And then the dog coughed.  She coughed.

“Starry?” I called to her as I held her away from me to look at her face.  I stared down at the little dog and suddenly saw her small mouth move.  She suddenly worked her furry jaw up and down in a chewing motion

…. and then she swallowed.

She swallowed

And then Starburst opened up her eyes and looked directly up at me.  I stood very still and stared down into Star’s sweet, funny face.  We just stared at each other for a moment.

And then Starry took a deep breath and whimpered.  “Ummmmmm  ummmmm”

It was so different from the loud choking sounds of a few seconds before.  This sound was soft and tender and heartbreaking.  Starburst now feel limply against my chest as she started to whimper uncontrollably now that her horrible, scary ordeal was finally over.  I held her tight to me and cried right along with her as I gave thanks that she was now miraculously okay.  I sat down slowly on the couch and tried to sit Starburst on the floor but the little dog wouldn’t leave my arms.  We cuddled together for a while until her cries finally calmed down.  I placed Starburst carefully down on the floor.  “Oh, Star!”  I sighed as she ran over to the dog dish and began to eat.  “Seriously?”

After her near fatal choking crisis, she was now snacking on dry dog food.  I don’t know if the whole ordeal had just made her hungry or maybe she just wanted to show me that she wasn’t afraid to eat again.  Yes, she had been through a bad choking experience but she showed no lingering fear as she chomped on the food.  I just shook my head at her and laughed.  Then, once she was satisfied, she crawled back up into my lap.  For the rest of the evening, little Starry  followed me around the house and wouldn’t leave my side until we both exhaustively fell into our own beds and went to sleep.

The next day, I came home from work and checked on the dogs to make sure they were okay and there were no messes to take me by surprise.  I went into my room and turned on the computer to catch up on the news.  More deaths, more disasters…

And suddenly there was a knock on my door.  I got up and opened my door to find Starburst waiting patiently in the hallway.  Now as she saw me, she jumped up and down, daintily dancing on her tiny, white, hairy paws.  Starry would run towards me and as I stepped forward she would joyfully jump up and back and spin around before prancing back towards me once more.  I laughed as I playfully chased her back into the living room where Mary was cuddling with Friskie and Cowboy on the couch.

“Starburst wanted you to come out and play with her,” Mary informed me.  “You don’t’ have to if she’s bothering you.”

“She’s not bothering me at all,” I told Mary.  “I’m just so relieved she’s all right.”

“Yeah, I am, too,” Mary sighed.  “I think you are her best friend now.”

“Yes,” I agreed.  “We are very bonded.  We’re best buds now.”  I got down on the floor as Starburst rolled over onto her back so that I could rub her pale belly.

I had told Mary the details of what had happened the day before.  Now my sister-in-law stated, “I think when you picked her up yesterday from under the table and held her tight, you probably dislodged whatever was in her throat so she could start breathing again.”

“Probably,” I answered, “but I don’t really know what happened.  I just remember holding her and praying…”

I stopped talking and Mary and I just smiled at each other.  Mary got up from the couch then and called, “Come on, dogs.  Time for dinner.”  I think all three dogs understand the word “dinner.”  They all trotted after Mary into the kitchen as I walked back into my room and sat down at my computer once more.  After a few minutes, there was a knock at my door again.

I got up and opened the door.  Starburst walked into the room and over to my chair.  I knew what she wanted.  I picked her up and placed her on my lap after I sat back down in my chair.  I rocked her back and forth as I looked at the articles appearing on my computer screen.  Nothing but bad news.  I clicked off the computer and pulled Starburst close to me as I realized that it really doesn’t matter how much money we have or what job we do or what kind of cars we drive.  When it’s all over, the only thing God will want to know is how much compassion we displayed and I how much love we gave.  Because all life, no matter how small and furry, is precious in the eyes of God.  In God’s glory, all lives matter, I thought as I cuddled tiny furry Starburst close to me and once more gave thanks for God’s sweet mercy.