For just a minute, think about the teen who just returned home from school. Today, he/she watched a friend get accepted by the athletes, because that friend is an exceptional volleyball player. After school, the friend was now busy, making new friends – the athletic friends, the popular friends, the ones that the coaches notice. The friend will still talk to this teen…but now is too busy to notice the rejection on the teen’s face. There is no intentional snub; it just happens.
Today, she came home alone. The teen jumped on her phone, but her friend was tied up at practice. So, no one was there. Her siblings are busy, her parents, busy. Her friend is in a new group. She is isolated at an age when connectivity is everything.
Now, think of this: It is the same scenario, however, when the teen comes home, her other friend is there. This friend has four legs, a tail and soft fur. They share a snack and have a chat. Rather than the sense of rejection and isolation being reinforced at home, there is a sense of comradery.
All of us have letdowns, are rejected and disappointed, and hope someone will be there for us. In our busy, preoccupied states, we all need someone to focus on us, someone who doesn’t think we disappointed them, who doesn’t care if we got a B, or made the team, or got that promotion. Someone who simply loves us, and we love them.
Often I hear “there’s just no time for ___.” This can certainly be true, and because of that I don’t encourage people to just run out and get a puppy or kitten. Rather, reflect on our connections with animals, how these connections can contribute to the family and the overall impact on our community.
Animals share the best type of love. It is non-judging and completely unconditional. They allow us to practice the art of compassion, show us how to give and receive love, and how to be responsible for another who depends on us for care. Empathy, parenting skills – the list goes on and on – these values and actions are at the core of good citizens. They are at the heart of strong communities. Where better for our youth to practice these skills, learn these concepts and, in return, receive love unconditionally from another being? Our pets are that friend who is there when we need an ear, and a shoulder. They allow our kinder, gentler sides to develop and grow.
HAWS has always believed in humane education. Our original bylaws state the importance of spreading humane sentiments through our community. Moving forward, we will be growing our efforts in this endeavor. With electronic devices consuming much of our time and entertainment, with communication breaking down and communities still divided, now more than ever is the time to invest in kindness.