We live in puzzling times.
The cold and the cruelty and the chasms between us have never seemed so huge; hugs and grace and generosity of spirit have never seemed so scarce.
Until, that is, we look closer. Nearer. Smaller.
I’m not the first or the five hundredth to say that Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the documentary about Mister Rogers, is the gently prophetic word we desperately need in 2018. My too-many words cannot do justice to the beauty, importance and power of this film and this man. Please see it. You will bawl and love and hope again.
And while you’re waiting for showtime, stop by Tabby’s Place for the same result.
I am not talking about the Tabby’s Place humans. Although I could write tomes about the quiet heroism and colossal kindness of our people; the way the sanctuary so often functions as a church in a mutual chaplaincy of love; the truth is that we also get it spectacularly wrong. We talk about each other and against each other and directly past each other. We are neighbors, friends, fellow beggars, but we forget.
The cats, small and strange and graceful in their imperfections, remind us. And so, I’m talking about the cats.
Puzzle is, by no account, a “perfect” cat. Elderly, impossibly whiny, long laden with lymphoma, he’s a slip of a screamer who wanders the Community Room wailing his wants.
(Yes, of course he is perfect. But you know what I’m driving at.)
Puzzle was improbably adopted many moons ago, only to return, older and crotchetier, when his beloved mom passed away. He has hardly stopped howling for comfort since. Puzzle excels in working every living creature’s last nerve. Even Daniel Striped Tiger and Henrietta Pussycat might need a break from our bawly boy.
So it was entirely ordinary to hear Puzzle pouting his way around the Community Room during our morning meeting today. “Weeow. Weeeeoow. Oooow. Oooow.”
Sounds of pain, or at least painful puzzlement.
We mere mortals would each pet Puzzle as he lamented his way past us, stroking his skinny head. But I’m ashamed to say we’ve all grown so accustomed to his cries that no one thought much of it.
No one but Shifty.
A grizzled old guy by any account, formerly-feral, totally-toothless Shifty lumbered his way along. At top old-man speed, Shifty snuggled his forehead directly into Puzzle’s, over and over and over again in a big beautiful bonk of love.
Puzzle stopped crying. Mutual headbonking commenced until the slip of a screamer settled down onto a blanket, consoled and content.
For the next ten minutes, Shifty continued checking up on Puzzle, ambling over to sniff his now-sleepy friend. Finally convinced that all was well, Shifty settled into his own slumber.
Neighborliness made visible.
The wide wild world has many problems, bigger than we can imagine (thank God) or attack on our own. But in the crevices of Community Rooms and neighborhoods from Tabby’s Place to Timbuktu, love is winning.
Look in the small spaces, neighbors and kittens. Love the ones you’ve been given. Love — relentless, rebellious, unquitting love — is the root of everything. And love will save even this world.