Early in my life I was told to be careful how I treated strangers because I might be entertaining angels without realizing it. A few days ago a small clan of angels arrived on my patio without my invitation or knowledge. They were discovered by me when I hurriedly went into my storage closet to grab a book early one Saturday morning. I noticed that the stray mother cat, who usually runs when I open the door leading to the patio, was not leaving and was making strange sounds at me. I thought something must be wrong with her and about the time I was convincing myself to simply ignore her, I saw the flower pot full of kittens. I was quite surprised.
After I recovered from my surprise, I began to think about what on earth I would do with this little clan. I was busy trying to get ready to conduct a workshop on racial healing as well as putting the finishing touches on our wellness day activities at church. I was too busy for this intrusion and I did not really want to have think about a stray cat and her babies at this time. So I called a few friends to see if they could help me find a place for the kittens, only to learn that the problem of unwanted stray animals is very severe in our town. Last year we killed over 2000 unwanted animals and at the present time, everyone engaged in cat rescue has more cats than they can manage. I was horrified at the suggestion of calling animal control. Even though I was not prepared to take care of them, I certainly did not want to contribute to their being killed.
I described the situation in my plea for help at church on Sunday as a "pastoral crisis" and I was not trying to be dramatic. This was a situation that I wanted to avoid. I did not want to begin to offer hospitality to this little family because I knew that I was not prepared to start raising cats at this stage in my life. But neither was I prepared to watch this mother try to feed her little flock without having adequate food and water for herself. So by Sunday afternoon I had resigned myself to the fact that I needed to buy a sack of cat food and begin to feed the mother. I have always owned dogs and since childhood I have not paid much attention to cats.
The kittens stayed in the flower pot for two or three days and then they began to try climbing out to a larger world. Two of them were able to get out alone. But the other two spent an entire day trying to get out and failing, only to give up and sleep for awhile before trying again. By the end of the day I decided to help them out of the flower pot, even though I wondered if I might be interferring with their natural developmental process. They seemed to be grateful to have a chance to get back with their mother so they could get food.
It has been two weeks now since I discovered these little angels and I have learned a lot. First of all, the opportunity to offer hospitality does not necessarily arrive at a convenient time. Along with this is the keen awareness that I am connected to these animals and that they were sent to my patio so we could share gifts with one another. At this point I am offering food, shelter, safety and a trip to the vet for the mother cat to be spayed so that she will not continue to contribute to the unwanted cat population in this city.
It has been made clear to me that I only need to do what I can to help and nothing more. I do not have to keep this entire group of cats simply because I am helping them now. Also this has helped me to be a bit more compassionate toward folks who are reluctant to get involved with those in need. I understand their hesitancy a little better and how big the challenge to push beyond it can be.
It has been a great joy to watch these little kittens learn to use the litter box, explore my small patio, create entertainment for themselves by climbing upon the patio rails and legs of the chairs. I have observed them as they joyfully play with one another, sleep with great contentment and as they are beginning to sense that I am not a foe. What a wonderful set of blessings and lessons they have brought to me. What a wonderful gift they are. I am continuing the search for good homes for them and I will miss them when they are living elsewhere. But I will always be thankful for the gift of their presence, that I have helped to save their lives and that angels come in all sizes and shapes.