Sunday, December 30, 2012

Love for Our Animal Family

I don’t know about you, but I love animals and am very passionate about them.  In fact, I call myself an “animaltarian” because I love animals too much to justify eating them.  My pets are my children just as much as any human child is to their parents.  I know many can relate in that their pets are part of their family.

Over the years, I’ve had numerous four-legged and two-legged “kids:” dogs, cats, horses, bunnies, chickens, birds, and hamsters.  If I could, I would have all kinds of animals around me all the time whether they were wild, tame, outdoor, indoor…you name it, I would have them.  But I also know that in order to care for them properly, you have to have the means to do so in way of vet and grooming bills, food, toys, and so on.

I am very spiritually connected to animals.  I wasn’t always like this.  At one time, even though I loved them, they were just pets.  But at some point, I became more spiritually connected to them.  It may have happened when I hit a deer one day on the way to work in the mid-80’s.  She had jumped from the woods into my car so I couldn’t have avoided hitting her.  She landed in the ditch and didn’t die right away.  I was hysterical.  The next thing that happened changed my life.  I was kneeling by her side while petting her stomach, sobbing, and apologizing, when she turned her head over her stomach, looked right at me, and I literally heard these words in my head just as clearly as if someone were speaking to me:  “It’s okay.  I know you didn’t mean to hurt me.  I forgive you.”  I became a vegetarian at that very moment.  Believe it or not, but it happened. 

I know this sounds unusual, and think what you will, but I can’t even handle seeing dead animals.  On some level, I can “feel” the fear and pain that animal felt when s/he was killed.  Most times, I can also “sense” if an animal is happy or sad, and sometimes, if they are sick or in pain.

Losing one of my “kids” is absolutely devastating.  Anyone who has lost a pet who was a part of their family can relate.  Those who do not have that connection with animals cannot understand this.  Some will argue that it’s not the same as losing human children, but to those of us whose animals are our family, it is.  I’m not judging them, so I hope they will not judge us. 

My little boy (Toy Poodle) died last December and it’s still like it was yesterday.  I still can’t think about him or see pictures of him without breaking down.  I miss him so much.  Same with my horse that I lost a few years ago.  I miss every pet I ever had.  My heart goes out to anyone who has lost their beloved animal kids.  (I want to make it clear that this is not to take away from losing a human child.  It’s extremely devastating.)

I love to hear stories where animals save human lives.  Animals can also bring healing energy to those in need.  Animals are taken into hospitals, nursing homes, and such to bring comfort to the residents.  Animals know.  And all they want to do is love their humans unconditionally.  Then there are humans who will risk their lives to save animals.  Again, not everyone understands this connection of humans to animals and some even try to make something wrong with it; but those of us who have that connection understand.  We don’t question it.

Like children, our animals can bring us so much love, joy, and laughter.  At the same time, they can bring us much sorrow when we lose them.  And like children, all animals are blessings, and you never know, maybe even angels in disguise.

(Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper December 30, 2012.)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Healing With Love

We’ve all heard the horrific news about the shootings at Sandy Elementary.  My heart goes out to all those affected by this heartbreaking catastrophe: the parents, children, family, friends, rescue personnel, and anyone else who has had to deal with it.  Tragedies are bad enough, but when it involves children, it’s that much worse.

What’s sad is to read many of the hideous comments that are being made in the media.  One comment was, "God is not going to go where he is not wanted."  How thoughtless can you be?  Who said that God was not wanted?  I can assure you that all the children, parents, teachers, and everyone else would not say that he was not wanted there.  Does that mean that no one in that school was a person of faith or that they didn’t believe in God?  What about the countless shootings in churches?  Does that mean God was not in those churches either?  If someone is not speaking words of love, they’re not speaking for God.

It really saddens me when I hear all these insensitive comments, how people are using God’s name to promote their personal hateful and judgmental beliefs and agendas, and then those comments hurt countless people.  God did not cause this tragedy (or any other).  Human beings make the choices.  When people make these kinds of statements, it is more a reflection on them and their character than it is on the people they are speaking about.  Instead of making such hardhearted comments, how about saying, “I’m so sorry.  How can I help?”

We saw this during Hurricane Sandy.  Many people lost everything, and yet too many people were making it political, were more intent on pointing fingers, and were trying to make points against the other “side.”  Biased news programs and politicians in particular made this into a political event rather than a humanitarian one.  I thought that Sandy would have had a compassionate impact on our country just as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina had, where everyone put aside all differences and came to the aide of our fellow beings.  They did here and there, but we rarely heard about it. 

So, it was very interesting to me that the name of the school where the shooting took place was Sandy Elementary.  It was like we were being asked, “How many times do tragedies have to happen before you get it?  Put aside your differences and become humanitarians!” 

It’s going to take some time to heal and everyone heals in their own way and in their own time.  People need to go through the various stages of grief.  Then comes forgiveness.  That’s a tough one for many.  We need to remember that forgiveness isn’t for the other person; it’s for us.  When we don’t forgive it’s like drinking a poison and expecting the other person to die.  Some may be able to forgive within a short time.  Some may take months or years.  And some may never be able to forgive.  I’m certainly not going to judge them.

What helps me in a situation like this, I try to see the child within the person who committed the horrific act.  The man that shot these children was not born thinking that one day he would do such a thing.  What happened to this man in his life to cause him to make the choices that he made?  There will be a lot of theories, but the truth is, we will never know what was going on inside his head or what he was going through.    

Once we get through the shock of this awful ordeal, we need to start thinking how can we prevent this from happening again.  When it comes to our children, there are so many who are in so much pain.  I substitute in the schools and I’ve seen it firsthand.  Many don’t have anyone to tell them that they’re loved or that someone is proud of them.  They’re desperate just to have their very existence acknowledged.  We can start by unconditionally loving all our children.  It really does take a village to raise a child.  Whenever you see any child, say something kind.  If you can, be a positive mentor.  Let’s start loving our children so much that they will never grow up to take their self-hate on others. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation -- either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.” Let’s not let this destroy us, but make us a stronger and better people.

Sending love and light to all those affected by this tragic event.  Love will prevail.

(Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper on December 28, 2012.)