This is a story told to me by a man named Sam. Sam was the son of a neglectful mother, and an abusive father. By the time he reached early manhood, Sam carried much pain and rage in his heart. As a last ditch effort to try to stay out of trouble, he went to live with his grandfather, an elderly gentleman who had little material wealth. The old man was patient with Sam, often having to deal with his negativity and belligerence, but no matter how kind the grandfather was, Sam could not shake the belief that he was a victim and life was an enemy to be fought.
One early morning, just as Sam was about to leave the house with the intention of committing a petty crime that may have landed him in jail, he noticed his grandfather walking painstakingly toward the house with an aged horse following close behind. Upon inquiry, Sam learned that because the poor creature was no longer of any “use,” and her teeth were so worn out that she could hardly chew, she was headed for the rendering factory. Sam’s grandfather had offered the only thing he owned that was of any value, a watch given to him by his beloved deceased wife, in exchange for that ailing horse.
When the arresting sight of two arthritic old beings, walking through the world without complaint, turned on the light of Sam’s compassion, the trajectory of his life changed forever. Rather than proceed with plans that may have set him on the path his father took, Sam stayed behind to help his grandfather care for that old mare, and this they did together over the next several years, until she peacefully died.
I too have a story like Sam’s, only mine is about my father’s hunting dog, Mikey, a tan and white spotted hound with a gentle uncomplaining nature. As a child, I would visit with Mikey at his little house in the back garden where I would share my woes and my hotdog, bite for bite. When I cried, Mikey would whimper in solidarity, and when I offered him some of my food, he would take it carefully, not wanting to place his teeth anywhere near my fingers.
I did not understand in those days that to be happy, a dog requires exercise, stimulation, and companionship. I never took that wonderful dog for a walk, nor gave him a toy to play with, and I only rarely, when my need manifested, spent time with him in his lonely little world. And yet, that dog greeted me with enthusiasm, shared in my sorrows, and warmed me with his unchanging, unconditional love.
This I believe, that love comes in many disguises, and to recognize it when it comes to us, will make the difference between a life of sorrow and a life of joy.