My pets have taught me about kindness. Kindness and its cousin, love.
In graduate studies for psychology, I learned from Professor Michahelles that showing a child that you understand he loves you is as necessary as showing the child he’s loved by you.
I think this is because children, like animals, inherently expect affection to be a colloquy.
They unlearn this expectation through living. That’s not a bad thing. Experience includes suffering and joy. (Sit with each of the words in your upturned palms and feel how they balance the scale of life.)
Loving is an action; it sets forth a purpose. It gives meaning. Children, and animals, so skillful at engaging with the now, thrive on being received. They need to know we know they love us.
How do we do this? With children, accepting what they have to offer is key. As a school teacher, I was handed dented playing cards, ribbon bits, smudged poems, and other tokens and, wonderfully, hugs and smiles.
The moment something is offered provides a potential for connection.
The mind thinks, “I’m busy. I don’t really want a pencil stub.” The wiser heart, however, pipes up, “How courageous is this child to extend her hand.” Then, aloud, “Thank you.” In a flash it happens. As adults we must be ready to glimpse it, to, as Georgia O’Keeffe urges, see.
We receive the love of animals by honoring their needs for safety, food, play, learning and comfort. By providing for them we acknowledge their single-pointed focus on us, how they wait for us, watch our faces and gestures for cues, acquaint themselves with our language, and make us feel necessary. As Vint Varga writes, animals provide an opportunity to connect with the less intellectualized side of ourselves. That side matters, too.
Isn’t love in this small-big world ultimately about paying attention?
My Little Bird this week published my article on how to pay attention to pets, particularly apartment pets. I dedicate it to my roommate, Tucker, the terrier mix, trained in love by our dog friend, Molly, and to Sasha, the first doggie.