This year, our Advent has been one of focusing on peace. With all that people have experienced this year in terms of wars and job insecurity, of financial crises and religious conflicts, holding these tensions in our world and for our world has been a challenge. We want so much for people and yet so few have even the basics of life.
A one-eyed cat adopted us this Advent. With a friendly meow and rubbing against my legs, it was obvious she had once had a safe home. How anyone could just abandon her was beyond my imagination. With too many indoor animals, I knew I could not introduce one more to the clan. I fretted over her when the dreadful cold nights in Austin arrived. Making a bed for her and giving her some food was the best I could offer and still I fretted—feeling how inadequate a response that was.
One of those nights I saw a man sitting on the cold cement eating. I wondered where he would find a cardboard box and blanket to keep warm. I thought perhaps he too had known a home of safety and warmth only to be abandoned by the circumstances of life. He moved off into the bushes leaving behind only an image of a man alone in the freezing cold night.
How like the first Christmas story so long ago. Both Socks and that man deserve so much more than could be provided for them. Yet, they seem to ‘make do’ with what they have – a bit of food, a tender hearted gaze and a place to sleep. My own soul was not at peace but rather agitated at the inadequacy of my responses. I wondered if that was how the Inn Keeper felt who could not fit one more person in the Inn. How did he feel giving Joseph and Mary a ‘stable’ for safety? I wondered if sharing the little he had because that was what he had really made a difference in his life.
I know I still fret when Socks is not in her make-shift bed. I know I feed her the best cat food I know of when the nights are cold. I know I won’t let her be adopted by just anyone for fear she would be abused. I know, too, my hope is that someone safe will love her into her fullness of years. And I know my Christmas gift to others this year will be donating to people who care for the homeless here in Austin, donating to people who fight for the lives of animals.
Will these small gestures eradicate animal abuse or poverty in Austin? No! and for this I will continue to fret. But knowing I hold this tension in my heart while making some gesture begins a path to healing and wholeness for me this Advent. May we all hold with some measure of grace the tensions of modern life and journey then to healing and wholeness!