on love and the ugly cat

I had a meeting at work with my boss and co-worker this afternoon. We usually have some pretty serious administrative things to talk about considering the nature of our work, but we usually find ourselves talking about the most random things. For example, today the conversation somehow ended up revolving around pets, and my boss told us the story of his first family cat.

This cat showed up at his front door out of the blue. It had – no exaggeration, and apparently there is photographic proof of this – one giant eyeball and six fingers on each front paw. This probably had something to do with why it ended up on the streets, but that didn’t stop his daughters from falling in love with this cat and subsequently lobbying to keep it. In fact, his eldest daughter lobbied so hard to keep it that for Christmas that year, one of her teachers actually asked him for permission to give her a bag of cat food as a gift. Naturally, he asked her why on earth she would think to give his daughter cat food as a gift. The teacher said she had asked the girl what she wanted for Christmas, and she said, “All I want for Christmas is a bag of cat food. There’s a cat in our neighbourhood that nobody wants, and I just want to take care of it.”

She definitely has a future in animal rights advocacy.

It’s adorable how kids make up their minds to love other creatures. It doesn’t matter what or who it is – once a child has made up his or her mind to love you, that child will love you no matter what kind of oddball feature you decide to let show, or what dark unknown street alley you came from. Giant eyeballs, extra fingers and all, this feral cat found love just by showing up in the kid’s life.

This makes me think of how we love as grown-ups; how we learn to impose standards and conditions, to give love partially and reservedly; how we so often give deference to fear and caution rather than faith and trust; how we are so quick to count the cost of loving someone and so slow to appreciate the blessing.

Children have the benefit of seeing love the way it was meant to be seen – freely given, freely received. Adults have it a bit harder. They’ve seen the reality of our human frailty, and they know what it means to be hurt. Yet somewhere in each of us, there’s both an ugly cat and a little child. In each of us, there’s a heart that needs to be loved, as well as a heart that needs to give love. The challenge is in overcoming the fears of the past so we can open our doors to one another. Hopefully in the process, when wounds have yielded wisdom and pain given way to hope, we can bring out the best in each other and in ourselves.

P.S. The ugly cat eventually left just as randomly as it came, but there have been others since. Now my boss’s daughters have adopted another stray cat, which they have named Crouton. His eyeballs are the same size, and he has no extra fingers.

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