Just when we think we’ve grasped the cats’ calling…
Just when we think we’ve seen the full scope of their mission on earth…
Along comes a whiff of grace so delicious it knocks us off our feet.
Words cannot fully express my thanks to super-volunteer Susan M. for penning the following – and, most of all, for living so luminously:
“The Tabby’s Place cats have been teachers for the past three years. Betcha didn’t know that!
“I am a volunteer at Tabby’s and also a second grade teacher. Children who are seven, turning eight years old are just at a cusp in their developmental stage. They are going from being completely tuned into themselves to being aware that others are important as well. This is appropriate and good.
“That being the case, one of our main goals in our second grade curriculum is empathy. We spend the whole year developing the skill of ‘walking in someone else’s shoes.’ We learn about American Heroes such as Helen Keller, George Washington, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Jackie Robinson. We do a service project with the Seeing Eye in Morristown. We become ‘Bucket Fillers,’ learning how to help others feel good (and discovering that when you ‘fill someone’s bucket’ you end up filling your own).
“All of this leads into our main social studies unit for the year on Immigration. We learn about immigrants past and present, take a trip to Ellis Island, and the children work towards writing their own piece of historical fiction; ‘becoming’ an immigrant and writing about the experiences that they had coming to America and assimilating to American life. Now at this point, you are probably wondering…what on Earth does any of this have to do with the Tabby’s Place cats?
“Because I love the cats so much, I began talking about them in class with the kids when I started volunteering about three years ago. Almost all children love animals, and it was a great way to connect with them. (I owe a huge thank you to all who have taken videos and posted them to Tabby’s Place’s YouTube channel. I show them all of the time.) Bellis was one of the first cats to become a part of my classroom. The children loved her videos and were amazed at how well she gets around. I even wrote a story about her to demonstrate descriptive writing.
“Soon we started watching Tabby’s Place videos as a reward for getting work done. You would be amazed at how much kids will do to see a three minute video of kittens pouncing on one another! Tashi quickly became our baby. We watched his transformation from kitten to cat, from physical therapy sessions, to water therapy, to playing with the baby goat. I slowly began to use Tashi and some of the other cats to teach empathy. It was amazing how well this love of special cats fits into the curriculum. (Even the arrival of the cats from Okinawa fit into the immigration lessons!)
“The children saw Tashi and Bellis and many other cats and realized that being different didn’t mean having a different type of life. They saw the joy and wisdom in Tashi and celebrated his successes with his therapy. The few moments that he walked during the encounter with the baby goat were like watching the Olympic Hockey Team defeat the Soviet Union way back when. The kids were that excited! Many of them began to relate to things that were hard in their lives and were able to talk more freely about their feelings with each other because they had the cats as role models. Some of these situations have been very moving.
“This last week has shown me just how much of an impact the cats have had on the children. I shared with them the news that Tashi and Gabby had been adopted. They were so excited! We all laughed and cried together at the news. I read them Angela’s wonderful blogs about Tashi and Gabby’s new life as well as the anticipation of little Dot. I loved being able to drive home the lesson that the impossible is possible with a lot of perseverance and love. I know of no better story to relay this message than that of the Tashmonster!
“I found it amazing over the week that many children who had been in my class in previous years started approaching me in the halls and asking if Tashi really had been adopted. The word had spread and I was overjoyed to share with all of these children that the news was true. They were excited for Tashi and there was much hugging all around.
“So give these cats an apple for me. They have been my partners in teaching the children this important life skill of empathy. Some day one of these kids may be President of the United States and remember a small tabby cat and the love that he taught….it just may make all of the difference in the world.”