This I Believe

Bob - Fresno, California
Entered on June 24, 2007

My belief was shaped by paralysis and misfortune in the form of a stray kitten. I was living overseas at the time, where one couldn’t just call the animal control people.

Decades of experience with other felines raised flags and sounded shrill warnings of clawed couches, bird feathers by the feeder, and allergies to cat fur.

But that kitten was a great leaper. In a single bound, she would suddenly appear at my kitchen window while I was preparing dinner, and mouth silent pleas at me whenever we made eye contact. I ignored her as best I could. I tried to chase her away. I banged on kitchen window glass and shouted loudly. She flinched but held her ground.

Then it started raining. If she looked pathetic and miserable before, seeing her curled up and dripping on my kitchen windowsill dissolved my resistance. I would later tell friends that my cat habit started innocently enough with a bowl of warm milk on a cold night. The hard stuff came later.

Soon my weekly grocery basket contained fresh liver, full cream, and gourmet cat chow. Her short hair coat thickened and turned glossy. She gained weight and filled out fast. Too fast! “There’s no fool like an old fool”, I told myself that morning when I opened my front door to find four newborn kittens heaped on my doormat.

But when I returned home that evening, she wasn’t there to greet me. She didn’t show up for dinner or for breakfast the next morning. A week went by; then two. I feared the worse. Convinced that she had been hit by a car or attacked by a dog, I began to walk the neighborhood at twilight, looking and listening. I missed her. I mourned for her.

Then one morning, I opened the front door on my way to work, and there she was, just skin and bones with what appeared to be a badly broken front leg and deep gashes. She had been hit by a car afterall, and it had taken her two weeks to drag herself back to my doorstep – her refuge, the only source of comfort she had ever known, and her last hope.

The vet said that a damaged and infected nerve had caused complete paralysis of the leg. While there, I had her spayed, vaccinated, and de-wormed. As I paid the hefty bill, I thought: “When will I ever learn?”

But I did learn. That three-legged alley cat enriched my life and taught this grizzled old man to look beyond the unfairness and tragedies and to concentrate instead on the ordinary moments, past and present, when life trajectories randomly cross, a stranger smiles, and everyday acts of human kindness happen and are reciprocated. And they will. This I believe.

By the way, two of her four kittens survived. They were discovered under a bush down the street and nursed back to full and glorious life by a foolish elderly neighbor.