This I Believe

Chris - Phoenix, Arizona
Entered on June 19, 2006

This I believe:

It was September of 2003 and I was struggling to find work after experiencing corporate downsizing 23 months prior. I had really fallen on some of the grandest challenges of my life and I felt as if the proverbial cards were stacked against me. Nothing seemed to work out the way I wanted it, the way I needed it. I found myself sitting in my house constantly worried I would wind up in the street as soon as my savings ran out. I was experiencing crippling anxiety such that leaving the house was a monumental chore.

I decided to force myself to find some volunteer work to occupy my thoughts when I was not being told I was overqualified by a potential employer. The first place I sought out was the Arizona Humane Society (AHS). Animals…being with creatures of all kinds was the only time I truly felt I had a place in the world. This is where I felt happy and needed—a sense of fulfillment at a time when I was scared and unsure of everything life was throwing at me. The familiar was gone from my person; with the fantastic exception of the animal world. This was familiar and spiritual to me.

I had not handled or been around a horse for nearly 15 years yet the “Equestrian Therapy Program” offered at AHS spoke to me. A program whose mission is to build self-esteem and confidence in children who have been through difficult times in their short lives. I had no training in anything equine and absolutely no experience with children being the martyr for singledom that I am.

I found myself a little apprehensive during my first day—being around such large, strong, majestic animals was much different than the three cats I am accustomed to caring for. I found that I was no different during my first day around these fantastic creatures than the kids who come into the program. There is a strange transformation that takes place when one is around horses. Traditional roles between old and young, black and white, male and female are suddenly transformed as if by an invisible force that begs the question, “Where have I been for the last 34 years?” I found myself playing the role of student, observer, teacher, mentor, worker, friend, and companion; not only to the kids, but to the horses, staff and therapists alike!

Before long, I was old hat at handling the horses and kids and having a grand time working outside with human and animal elements equally. I realize this experience has helped me to develop my horizons in ways I never thought likely. I started this wanting to give others help and realized in doing so I was the one who really benefited the most. I believe the companionship and peace that comes from working with our animal brothers is something that can and will make the world a more hospitable place! This I believe…