I’ve been meaning to write this one for a while, but life has a funny way of taking you were you’re needed, which is a bit of what I want to write about now. Fairly recently, Hurricane Harvey struck my home town of Houston, Texas. Though it has been practically a month since it came, there are still some very apparent signs of its devastation. Some spots even have flood water in them still. I have had many opportunities to extend a hand of service and charity, but many of the examples I have to give are of a rather unexpected orientation, to which I have learned some beautiful lessons from.
Of course after the hurricane past, many groups, communities and individuals organized and participated in cleaning up the damage caused by the storm. Among my peers, many volunteered to muck houses and clean out debris. It was inspiring service, and seemed to be a really big help. Yet, as I pondered where I was needed, I was drawn to simpler things. Many things I ended up doing ended up seeming dull or insignificant. I felt like I wasn’t doing my part as I began to judge myself for doing things that seemed so small. Today I only want to focus on two things, one of them began as I talked with my wonderful wife, who gave me a beautiful thing to consider.
You see, my wife had the misfortune of being a widow at the far too young age of 21. Her first husband passed away after an attempt to save another family member in an accident during a canoeing trip. Though her late husband’s sacrifice is considerably noble and heroic, she felt like it was a bit of a no win scenario. Her first husband saved a life, but also left her behind. She felt a bit betrayed, but how could her feelings trump him saving a life? The conflict of interest was excruciating and has taken her many years to process, and sorting out her feelings about it is still a work in progress.
Mucking houses and cleaning up debris is hazardous at best, I did have my fair share of doing that during past years when helping with Hurricane Ike and Katrina. Both my wife and I watched our peers sustain some pretty gnarly injuries doing the above mentioned things. Knowing this and a bit of where my wife comes from, she reminded me how much it means to her that I try and stay safe, and though it was a small thing, it was a service to her that was truly precious.
This concept and the significance of doing small and simple things really came full circle as I was taking care of our other family member, a wonderful cat named Henry. He was adopted very shortly after the storm passed. I preoccupied myself greatly for a little while with making sure his adjustment into our home went smoothly. I really took the responsibility of taking care of him seriously, which began to puzzle me as I began to consider what was happening around me. I had always been a bit critical and judgemental of people who treated their pets better than some human beings, yet I was kind of doing that all of the sudden. It caused me to really contemplate what I was doing and why. One day while contemplating this I went to Walmart to get some food for someone. I had been occupying myself with Henry for a about a week, so it felt nice to be doing something for a person. Somehow that felt more legitimate or something. However, as I finished up and began to head out of the parking lot, I saw a stray cat that looked much like the cat we just adopted. My heart ached as I realized that our cat was likely once in a similar circumstance. In an instant what I was doing for Henry felt much more significant than I had made it out to be.
Driving home I made some correlations between these two things I’ve talked about and discovered some pretty valuable lessons. How could I make a big difference in the world if I don’t acknowledge, appreciate, and respect the small things that make up the world? How can I build up those small things if I’m too concerned with the grandiose of larger things? And how can I care about the things around me if I do not also care about myself? Powerful questions to consider, but they really made sense as I walked through the door of my home and was greeted by the love of my dear wife and adorable little kitty. I found that staying safe and doing something small like taking care of a cat may not look like it made much a difference in the world, but it made a world of difference for my wife and for my cat.
Considering that persons and animals like my wife and our cat are part of the world, in a very real way I have made a difference in it. Viewing life in that way is both humbling and empowering because it suggests that a virtue like generosity is impartial to one form or another. Anyone can practice generosity in whatever way their circumstance permits and life can be enriched no matter what size or amount of it is expressed.
I hope that in thinking about what I’ve said and experienced that it serves as some kind of help to you. I would love your continued company as I try to share my life’s experiences and would hope you consider supporting me in whatever way your circumstance permits. Info on how to do so will soon be published pretty clearly on my home page so I hope to see you again in the future.
Above all thank you for reading
Jordan Dunford (weRDunfo)