At the risk of offending every cat who ever thought he was the sun, I have an announcement to announce.
It’s not all about us.
A funny thing happens when adopters don’t adopt. When a human bean moseys into Tabby’s Place, expresses interest in getting a cat, and then leaves without choosing one of ours…well, it’s righteous indignation all over the place.
Illusion-shattering announcement #2: the Tabby’s Place staff is comprised of 100% human humans. (I know, I know, our luminosity makes that hard to believe. But believe.) Sometimes we get peeved by people. Often we get peeved by those people who just don’t make a love connection with one of our cats. 120 cats, and none of them were good enough for him? A room full of kittens, and she needs one even cuter?
They’re not our proudest moments. But times like these try men’s souls and elicit harrumphs from the best of us.
We can get so tunnel-visiony trying to get our Tabby’s Place cats adopted that it becomes a virtual mission to pluck the sticks out of misguided adopters’ eyes. But look at THIS cat. Maybe your family wants to consider someone who isn’t a long-haired Snowshoe kitten? Maybe you want to open your eyes and your heart at least a millimeter to stretch your idea of perfect? Maybe you have a heart inside? Or maybe it’s just an empty hole in your soul?
This week, however, I was brought to eye-level with the big gawky log blocking my own vision.
Family X arrived with smiles and sweet natures. Let’s call the matriarch Gala. With a happy spirit and a genuine interest in our cats, Gala explained that they were “wide open” in terms of their future kitty’s age and gender. They just wanted a lap cat who could give and accept love. Gala’s children – let’s call them The Galettes – were kitten-smitten and would be a harder sell for anything over six months. But Gala made it clear that she was the decider, and she was more inclined to get a full-grown feline.
There was scarcely a cat who didn’t fall all over Gala and The Galettes. Although the family had arrived at 4:01 pm, and dinner is served to our cats at 4:00, Toby leapt up from his chow to weave gleeful figure-eights around The Galettes’ legs. JJ heaved himself into a Galette’s lap, purring with seismic force. Sadie – scared former-feral Sadie – used her entire 11 months of socialization training to love on The Galettes with gusto. LaFawnduh engaged Gala in a mom-to-mom conversation. Pisces did gymnastics of joy, rolling and lolling under the littlest Galette’s touch. It was an extended, all-in lovefest.
And the family didn’t want a single one of them.
We were nearing the end of our love-tour, and Blossom was climbing Gala’s leg as the oldest Galette cradled Florence and the other two smooshed Pisces. Gala whipped out her smartphone.
“You’ve got to see these kittens,” she told me.
Kittens? There are kittens other than the ones pouring their love out on you right here and now? I said nothing.
“We were just at Anonymous Public Shelter Z and saw the cutest kittens. Here, look at this one.” Gala showed me photos of caged little cats they’d met earlier and elsewhere. “And, look, this one was so so friendly. Remember him, Galettes?” They did.
On and on the gallery scrolled, of non-Tabby’s Place cats who had lodged in Gala’s heart. On and on our kittens tried to dethrone their rivals.
And our kittens…failed. (No, no, no, kittens are incapable of failure. They succeeded – at not getting adopted. In God’s economy, I know that’s for the best, because it only means their meant-to-be homes are elsewhere. But I digress.)
Gala and The Galettes, smiles and good intentions and friendly spirits still shining, left.
I’m not proud to tell you that I immediately grumped into the office and lamented the whole story to my comrades. They dutifully harrumphed with me. She took out her cell phone photos? She did! The indignity! I would have just said, “then go back there and get those cats, if they’re so much better than ours!” Harrumph! Fie on goodness!
But then…then there was that still, small voice. It’s not all about you.
Of course not, I shot back (in my strange, crowded mind). It’s all about the cats.
No, said the Voice. It’s not. It’s not all about the Tabby’s Place cats.
At this point, my inner compass belched out something articulate like: Huh?
But Wisdom is right: it’s not, in fact, all about us. Not us human beans, and not (exclusively) the Tabby’s Place cats.
The cats at Anonymous Public Shelter Z need love and homes and Galettes. The human beans at Anonymous Public Shelter Z adore those cats and pour their souls into them with no less depth than we do “our” cats at Tabby’s. The love is the same.
We’re all in this together, and we need us all.
There’s no room for competition in a mission as large and long and wide and deep as cat rescue. If every adopter in America (I’ll be generous and cede the rest of the world to other shelters) adopted only from Tabby’s Place, that would be pure awesomeness what would become of the cats in other quarters?
There’s something bigger here, broader and more magnificent than our little loves can imagine, in which we and the cats are a crucial part…but only a part. The whole would have a hole in it if we were missing, but we aren’t the whole enchilada.
The kittens in the Tabby’s Place kitten room really didn’t fail – they succeeded at staying on mission in their part of the Great Love Story of all time. They each have a journey. As do we. As they entwine and intersect, our love grows.
And it’s bigger than any one of us.
It’s not all about us. And that – the bigness of “it” all – is the beauty and the mystery in which we live. There’s room to cheer on other cats in other quarters. There’s room to rejoice for others’ rejoicings. In the freedom from having to be the be-all, end-all everything of everything, the cats – and we – are released to live our stories without expectation, without competition, without anxiety.
And without harrumphs.