From “Faith is Not a Dirty Word”
Are you a “helper”? By which I mean, do you crave being helpful? I’m a helper. But more often than not, I either lack the opportunity or just make things worse.
Caution: Rabbit Hole
Let’s talk about opportunity for a quick sec. I recognize that sometimes we have to make our own opportunities. We also have to be open to the opportunities presented to us, even if it means stepping out of our comfort zones. I know I have opportunities to help, but my extreme introverted nature often makes it difficult to be the kind of helper I wish to be. So, I look for — even pray for — opportunities to be helpful from within my comfort zone.
Okay, I’m done.
Some of the ways I attempt to be helpful is to be there for family and close friends (naturally). I’ll also be quick to jump in and help a stranger when I’m out and about. This rather goes against my nature, and I’ll flush and get all wooblie, but helping a random stranger often works out better than trying to inject myself into a situation with people I know. (Figure that one out.)
I’m also constantly on the lookout for animals in need. Now, despite my heart for it, I’m not one of those people. You know who I mean…the awesome people who are like beacons for animals in distress. I wish I were, but alas! They do not seek me. That said, I do have a way with animals, which was what had led me to my prior career in the veterinary field.
To that end, I’m always scanning for animals when I find myself traversing the countryside. Like when I go visit family. The little journey to visit my family takes me 20 miles down an unpopulated, two-lane county “highway” through rural Florida. (Read: miles and miles of mossy trees, scrubby grasses, and cows. And a donkey, I think there’s a donkey.)
And then today, it happened! This lovely Sunday morning on an errand to my parents’ house, I was…
It was foreshadowed by several encounters with animals on the roadway.
First, there was a buzzard. Not unusual, really, but this guy was just standing in the middle of my lane. He looked dead at me as I slowed down, and I could practically hear him sniff with derision as he walked off the road and into the grass. He didn’t flutter, or hop, or do the vulture strut…he walked off, thoroughly inconvenienced. I apologized to the offended fowl and went on my way.
Next, when I made the turn off the highway, I immediately encountered an orange cat crouched down in the middle of my lane, licking the road. Just…licking the road. He, at least, darted off like an ordinary cat. I wonder what was so tasty?
Third, as I neared my destination, I disturbed a flock of large white birds in my path. I didn’t get a good look — I was busy trying to also not hit a garbage can, an oncoming vehicle, and a road sofa (welcome to Florida) — but they may have been Great Egrets. Beautiful!
I arrived safely at my family’s place, jibber jabbered, retrieved the items I’d come for, and then went along my way. And it was on the way home that I was granted my opportunity.
Closer to home, houses start popping up along this country road, and at the end of one of the driveways I spotted a dog lying on its side.
“Oh no!” I exclaimed, out loud. “Oh! Oh no!” Traffic was heavier here, though, and it flashed by so fast I didn’t even process what I saw till it was behind me.
I was greatly distressed by this. I said a little prayer for the dog, the family, and for someone to help if the dog could be helped. But then I thought, wait a second! *I* can help! I slowed down and made a u-turn. I may be out of practice but please, God, if I can lend assistance to this poor animal then help me remember what I need to do!
I hopped out of my van, trotted over, and quickly assessed the dog. She was cold and stiff. I looked up and saw a woman coming down the driveway, so I approached and explained my presence. The house belonged to her daughter, who was away for the holidays. When the woman checked on the dog yesterday, she was fine; this morning, she was by the road. You could see where she had dug out of the yard.
Randomly, there was a wadded up Christmas tree skirt about three feet from the dog’s body, so we wrapped her in it and I helped (“helped”) carry her back toward the house. I expressed my condolences, and went on my way.
(The dog’s name was Barbie. She was black and white, and what looked to be a small Staffordshire. Say a prayer for Barbie’s family, if you would.)
I was so bothered when I got back in my van! It was just so sad, this poor dog getting hit and left like that, and with her beloved family out of town no less. I, myself, lost my sweet dog while away during the holidays, so this hit close to home. I sent up another prayer for the family and told God how very sad it all was! Oh, how I wished I could’ve helped!
And He heard me.
Because then He gave me an actual opportunity to help.
As I rounded a curve close to home, I came upon a black lump smack in the center of the road. It was a turtle! A young softshell. With no traffic around (which was surprising on this ordinarily busy stretch), I stomped on the brake and quickly pulled over.
Guess where I was.
Go on, guess!
Youuu didn’t guess. Okay, I’ll tell you.
I was in front of my church.
The service I’d skipped to run a family errand.
I hopped out and bolted for this little turtle who’d been trying to scuttle across the heavily traveled boulevard. I scooped him up and carried the flailing little guy to the curb, then quickly set him down before his claws could gain purchase on my palms.
“No,” I said, looking around. “Service will be letting out soon and you’ll probably just get squished here in the parking lot! Let me get you to the water.”
Adjacent to the church parking lot and hidden from the road is a small, picturesque retention pond, likely his destination all along. So, I scooped him up again and headed that way. (Please, God, protect the van I just left unlocked and running by the roadside…)
This time, the little turtle just hung limply in my hands. In fact, he looked up at me. It’s like he suddenly understood I meant no ill will and was, in fact, acting with benevolence. When I set him down by some bushes near the water, he just sat there and looked at me. With his eyes. It’s strange to see little beady turtle eyes lock onto you, but that’s what he did. I rubbed his shell a few times (they can feel it, you know), offered some soothing words, then darted back to my van.
As I resumed the drive home, reflecting on my little experience with the turtle, I barked out a laugh. “Hah! You!! HAH!” God had seen my heart and given me the opportunity to help a random animal…right there in His own front yard.
So as we enter this new year of our Lord 2019, I find myself grateful for small opportunities such as these, and the presence of mind to recognize them for what they are. And I pray that all of you helpers like me out there are granted your own well-placed turtles.
Thanks for reading. And God bless.