The other day my cat was sitting on my lap and nudging her head against my hand trying to manipulate it to pet her. As I watched her do her usually ritual when she is feeling in an extremely affectionate mood, I thought about the first time I ever saw her.
It was about 10 years ago, I came home from work one day and started to walk up the walkway to the house, when this little black & white cat ran up to me, plopped down in front of my path and then rolled around as if she were trying to demonstrate how cute she was. Taken by surprise by this spectacle, I laughed and reached down to pet her, but as she saw my hand coming towards her, she ran off a few feet away from me.
“Don't you want to be petted?” I asked her as if she understood English. After a minute or so, she timidly came towards my outstretched hand and rubbed her face against my fingers. I noticed as she was doing this, that she had no hair on her back and it was full of scabs. “Poor kitty”, I thought, yet she was not concerned about all that for the moment. She was busy rubbing her face against my hand.
I tried to pet her more, but she skittishly ran away at my attempt. I watched run to a much safer distance and then I turned and went in the house.
Well for the next couple of weeks, this turned into my coming home ritual. I would park the car, start to walk up the walkway and here she would come out of nowhere, plop down in my path, roll around and then wait for me to extend my hand and rub her face against it. Every time I tried to pet her more, she would scamper off.
After a while, she did let me pet her more and when I did, I realized just how malnutritioned she was. She was complete skin and bones. There was no softness to her at all. Also I realized that she had sores all over her body, some of them bleeding. Feeling extremely bad about her condition, I went up to the house and brought back out some cat food (I already had a cat). I put the bowl down and she timidly came towards it. She looked down at the food, then up at me and then back down again and then back up at me. This went on for a minute or two. She seemed to be really confused about the situation and then set aside her doubts and proceeded to eat ferociously. I thought that maybe the least I could do for her was to set out some food for her to eat. So for the next week or so, I put a bowl out for her, but the problem was, all the neighborhood cats now started to visit my house as it were the neighborhood hangout.
I was stuck with a dilemma. I couldn't leave food out, because it was attracting all the cats in my neighborhood and we also had raccoon issues, which that would not help. But this cat definitely needed some food or who knows how long it would live. It was obviously suffering from some kind of skin disease and malnutrition. Not to mention that she had this twitchy tail.
I came home from work one day and there she was again to greet me. I bent down to pet her when I heard a voice say to me, “That's Baby”. I looked around to see my neighbor, who I wasn't very fond of. “What?” I asked. “Baby, that's her name”, the neighbor replied. “Is this your cat?” I asked. “Well yes and no. Our cat had kitten a while ago and she's one of them,” The neighbor replied. I looked at Baby and then at the neighbor. “Well she doesn't look very well. She has some kind of skin infection, she's malnutritioned and her tail keeps twitching uncontrollably.” The neighbor looked at me and then said as a matter of fact, “Well we can't afford to feed her and I've seen the boys swing her by her tail. Maybe that's why it twitches.” Shocked, I said, “You've got to be (bleeping) kidding me.” and that settled it.
That night I let Baby come into the house. She was extremely timid and unsure, but she did come in. My other cat was none too happy, but was tolerant of the situation. I fed her and she did her ritual of letting me pet her, but only with my arm extended fully and her just pushing her face against my finger tips. I woke up the next morning and looked for her. “Where did she sleep?” I thought. I looked around the house and couldn't find her. I finally went into the kitchen and there she was. Curled up, sleeping on a dinner plate on the kitchen counter. “Strange”, I thought, but then realized that maybe the cool plate might have felt good on her infected skin. She looked up and gave me a small meow and I told her, “Well, the first thing that we need to do is get you fixed up. Time to call the vet.”
I took her to the vet the next day and she went through a barrage of tests and shots and then was given antibiotics for the next month. To make a long story shorter. She got better. The sores went away and her fur grew back and now she is a little chunky kitty. I call her my little snausage. Though every year or two, she always seems to come up with another infection of some sort. The vet says that she was in such bad shape when she was younger that her immune system is probably not that strong and she is more susceptible to getting sick.
She still has a twitchy tail and though she loves to come around people, she is still quite skittish around most people but me. She follows me around like a dog would. Everywhere I go in the house, she is right at my feet and always on my lap.
And so this long blog comes down to this. The other day she was on my lap nudging her head against my hand as she so often does. Purring and almost seeming to have a smile on her face and as I watched her doing this, a deep sense of love and gratitude came over me. But this love that I was experiencing wasn't a love of giving and receiving. It wasn't about I love my cat and my cat loves me. It was more of a gratitude that my cat had a chance to experience and demonstrate the Love that was always in her, but that her early life's situations most likely stifled . I might have been the recipient of that love in that moment, but that is not where my gratitude came from. I had nothing to do with it. It wasn't about me per say. It was simply a gratitude of being able to watch Love being demonstrated. To watch the experience of Love in action.
In that simple little moment. I saw Love much differently than what my ideal of love is. It is not something that I can give and then take away. For Love is not mine. That kind of love is the special love/hate relationship.
The Love of God (for myself at least) has nothing to do with giving and receiving in the conventional sense as in giving and taking. Sitting with my cat, it was more like I got to experience Love and share in the experience and by sharing in the experience of Love, was it naturally extended. I didn't give it, but it was Given and as it was Given, was I experiencing it, because I was sharing in it. The Peace of God. The All Encompassing Love that gives to all when they let Love come into their awareness. It is always there. For it is God and we are in God.
The simple moment has given me a new way to look at Love. The past couple of days, instead of thinking about Love in the conventional sense of “How can I get people to love me or love others” etc etc. I have instead looked to opportunities to share in Love by watching it in action. By seeing it in others and being around people in my school, it has brought many opportunities for this. A teacher helping a student. A friend laughing with another. Someone picking up a dropped book for someone else. Someone giving someone in distress a hug. A special needs employee getting encouragement and high fives from students. Smiles, kindness in the eyes. Compassion. Love is always there. A lesson learned from a cat.
These past couple of days have been powerful exercises in Love for me. Not selfishly looking for it for myself, but just seeing it in others and there it is. It is amazing that I can experience Love, not by my own personal experiences of someone loving me or visa versa, but by seeing it everywhere. And by seeing it everywhere, love has seemed to come to me in a more personal way. I am experiencing it more with my own personal contacts I have with people, by seeing it experienced through others. For Love is always there.