Lessons from a stray

I first encountered love in May 26, 1998 and I can still remember that day.

It was raining hard and lightning flashed across the sky. A roar of thunder would follow every burst of bright blue light, interrupting the steady pitter-patter of raindrops. The sounds mingled, creating the perfect cacophony of a storm.

However, even though the world outside raged, laughter filled the air inside my house.

It was my brother’s birthday and our house was packed. I was seven years old and as part of Filipino culture I would make ‘mano po’ to my visiting aunties, uncles and elders by pressing the back of their hand to my forehead as a sign of respect.

As child, I never really was a fan of crowds. So after I completed my rounds of ‘mano po’, I grabbed a paper plate and filled it with food. Then I scampered to the backyard.

Even though there was a thunderstorm, our backyard had a veranda. So I sat there in silence and observed nature’s fury as I ate.

Then from the darkness, I heard a pitiful ‘meow’ and a sudden movement in the shadows caught my attention. I stopped eating my spaghetti and squinted my eyes, trying to peer into the darkness. Another flash of lightning struck the sky and I saw the owner of the weak ‘meow’. It came from a kitten who was trying to create a shelter from a soaked cardboard box.

I felt a pang of sympathy for the poor cat and I tried coaxing it out of his hiding place by standing at the edge of our veranda with a Tender Juicy hotdog in hand. It didn’t work but I was determined to have the kitten as a pet.

With a plan in mind, I gobbled half of the food in my plate. Then I ran inside the house, dashed towards the window that was facing the back yard and waited.

In a few minutes, my patience paid off.

Sensing that I was gone, the kitten made a mad dash towards the meal that was left for him.

Fur wet with the rain, it clung to its shivering form, emphasizing its skeletal frame but what drew my attention was that the kitten only had one eye. In place of his right eye was a hollow socket which oozed a thick, jelly-like substance.

Yet, his disability didn’t deter me. Instead, it strengthened my resolve and I decided to name him: One Eye.

You may wonder why I’m sharing this story. What is important about a girl and her cat?

Anatole said “That unless one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”

Looking back, things could have turned out differently. I could have ran inside the house in fear when I heard One Eye’s wail. Within the comforts of my home, I could have stayed safe and warm. But that wasn’t the choice that I made. Instead, I marched into a storm by leaving room a room for One Eye inside my heart.

Yet, it is in the most challenging experiences that we can grow. On that day, it wasn’t only One Eye who was saved. A part of me awakened as I learned how to love something that couldn’t give me anything in return. I also witnessed how a simple act of compassion can change even the most hardened of souls.

One Eye was a stray kitten who experienced hunger and abuse. He was almost feral and earning his trust wasn’t easy. It was a journey filled with bites, hisses and scratches. However, eventually, my clumsy attempts of reaching out to this grumpy kitten paid off. His feral edges vanished and he became a ‘house cat’ with a flair for hunting mice. He stayed with us until he died of old age.

If acts of kindness can change a kitten for the better, what more can it do for humanity?

We live in a world where there are painful experiences that can wound us, making us as feral as a one-eyed stray. It is during these moments of despair where kindness and compassion can heal an aching soul.

To illustrate, close your eyes and think about the people who love you.

Think about them and keep that image of your family, friend or special someone. Isn’t it amazing how they can fill you heart with a warm glow?

How they can lift you up, when you are down?

Now, let’s move on to acts of love and kindness.

A hug, a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on.

Can you recall how deeply it touched your soul?

How it made your world a better place?

Reaching out to One Eye taught me a life-long lesson and that is:

“A single act of kindness can cause ripples of healing.”

-Anonymous

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