The last time you worked for a homeless shelter, you ended up bringing home a dog. Now you’re working for a children’s shelter?
A wise observation by my father.
There are many things I have learned working for both an animal shelter and a children’s shelter. The most important thing I have taken away from these organizations is that human cruelty and kindness are both very much real. Cruelty and kindness come in all shapes and sizes, and can be disguised in ignorance and anonymity. The enormity of human kindness and its counterpart, human cruelty will surprise you, engulf you and then knock you off your feet until your life is forever changed by it (trust me). However, I have come to learn that one greatly outweighs the other.
First hand, I have witnessed negligence, abuse. I have watched an animal die, hung by a choker collar as it fell out from the side of a truck. Its owner, too careless to have properly tethered the creature to the back of her truck, quickly drove off with the animal’s corpse before police enforcement could arrive. Negligence causes death.
I have known children as little as three years old who were left alone to fend for themselves. The parents had long vanished, as if they never existed to begin with. What kind of hole do you think parental abandonment instills in a child’s heart? Shelters witness it every Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and every day they want a hug from mom or dad.
However, life is not full of cruelty. There is a hope that prods a goodness in each of us. I speak the truth when I say I have seen more kindness than cruelty built into shelter walls. I have seen love for the broken hearted and broken boned. I have seen dead souls come back to life with optimism shimmering throughout their bodies. Let me tell you about this kindness!
There was a kitten once named Lucy. Lucy was purposely run over by a lawnmower, tortured and left for dead. The No Kill society I worked for did everything in their power to save Lucy, which included amputating the kitten’s leg. Many kind-hearted people donated their time and finances to save this small creature’s life. Lucy survived. However, she was difficult to care for and was quite afraid of humans. I watched Lucy gain the strength to walk again as well as forgive humans. I wrote about Lucy and put her picture in the newspaper. She was quickly adopted and placed in a loving home. Overwhelming human kindness gave Lucy a happy ending.
Example #2: The Children’s Shelter. This shelter takes in many children, each with a different hurt etched into their heart. Some of these children have never experienced the luxuries we take for granted, like back-to-school shopping or being able to purchase books at a scholastic book fair. I work at a children’s shelter on the east coast. Many of the residents had never seen a beach. Last week, a generous donor decided to sponsor an overnight beach trip for these children, which included a nice hotel stay. Imagine this: Living on the coast and being told you are going to the beach for the first time in your life – an experience you’ve heard all your friends at school talk about is now finally YOURS.
Cruelty and kindness come hand-in-hand. It’s part of the natural balance of the world. Some people choose to believe that evil runs this world, but I choose to believe in its goodness.