As my fingers rested lightly on the keyboard I flipped through the thoughts in my mind, hoping for a transcendent organizing theme to offer in this piece. I looked out the window at the millions of snowflakes whisking by and landing atop millions of other snowflakes. I realized with a sudden mental jerk that my worries about the Winter Raffle’s deadline long past due, and the responsibility that rests on my shoulders to launch it as well as all our newsletters in order to raise donations for us to continue our work, I realized these concerns weighing me down were so very small. I sat near a heat source, a hot, soothing beverage close at hand, I wasn’t hungry or thirsty, and a clean, warm bed waited for me when my work was finished.
My pathetic grumblings about deadlines and writer’s block now seemed inconsequential as I thought of the thousands and thousands of creatures who would be hardpressed to find a patch of shelter against the wind and wet, food and water far out of reach. I thought of the paws and ears that would be frozen wet and frostbitten. So many images of their struggles and hardships rolled through my mind as if in an endless, droning parade. Such is frequently the case when I begin the process of preparing the pages we mail to our membership; I see over and over the hard facts of life and death for the animals we travel the streets to help, and part of my job as editor and principal writer of our newsletter is to convey these images in an enlightening form without being heavy-handed. If you are to understand why we return night after night to dangerous areas, you must have a clear idea of the animals’ pain we work to alleviate. Their pain is what we see six nights a week, every week of the year—this is why we continue to ask for your support.
After purchasing supplies at a local store a few weeks ago, I was on my way out of the parking lot when I noticed a group of crows gathered in one of the empty parking isles. They looked busy, but crows often look busy. I slowed down to observe their activity and I was struck again by the way human beings (myself included) take for granted life’s basic necessities. This cluster of crows was circling a discarded soda cup; they took turns striking it with their beaks and, as what little bit of liquid left inside it dribbled out, they drank.
Intelligent and dignified creatures, these crows were using their ingenuity to drink a tiny bit of liquid left in a huge cup. The person who tossed it onto the parking lot had no use for what remained after he drank his fill, but thirsty crows would see that not a drop was wasted. Homeless animals (and wild animals) know what it is to be thirsty for days on end and will gladly drink what we toss away.
The shrill intrusion of a car’s horn interrupted my thoughts—without realizing it, I had come to a complete stop in the driving path. Although they had me thoroughly mesmerized, the thirsty crows were of no interest to the driver behind me who was annoyed with my lingering and wanted to get on with the business of her day as I knew I should, too. Before I did, however, I drove into the line of empty parking spaces and pulled out a container from the jumbled accoutrements packing every flat surface in my car, filled it with the bottle of water always on hand, and hoped the sharp-eyed birds would return from their scattered flight for a long drink of clean water.
Hours later at the bank, the teller took me by surprise when she said (out of the blue), “I remembered what you told me.” I must have looked bewildered because she clarified—"About the rain. When customers come in and complain about rainy days, I tell them what you told me: animals get a drink when it rains.” In view of the crow incident earlier that day, I found her remark oddly appropriate.
Without knowing it, she held up a mirror showing me that I roll up my sleeves and pull out my rickety old soap box at every opportunity; more often than not without invitation I recite the well-worn speeches I’ve fashioned from years and years of seeing what homeless animals go through, what pain they endure without comfort. I’m sure I didn’t remember delivering the “rain lecture” while standing at her counter, but she remembered and I was pleased that she took me seriously rather than smiling politely while secretly hoping this crazy customer would quickly move on. As I left the bank, I wondered how many times a week I bend the ear of a total stranger with one of my lectures. I can’t stop the biting wind from freezing homeless worthy animals who have no where to live, but I can talk about their plight. And, I can hope that my speeches might produce some bit of good along the way.
This same hope stands behind the Editor’s Notes I write for our Raffle mailings. I realize I go over the same topics again and again, but animals on the streets bear up under the same crushing difficulties day after day. If you read our newsletters you already care about homeless animals, and for this we are grateful. But life has a way of pulling us in so many directions without giving us enough time to accomplish everything on the day’s schedule. Unless you travel the alleys each night and see the faces of the innocent souls struggling to survive, their pain may fade from your thoughts. I am acutely aware that my words are woefully inadequate to convey the suffering we see, but I must do my best to remind you that we continue to need your financial support to help animals on the streets.
Right now they are hungry and thirsty, some are hurt and still fighting to live, some are dying from parasites or deadly disease, the list could go on and on. We will go out again tonight, we will see their noble faces and do all we can for them. Although you won’t ride through hundreds of alleys or look into the eyes of the downtrodden, you can be with us in spirit. Please join in our Raffle and help us make a difference.