“Mom!” Nigel calls from inside the house. “Don’t forget we have to go to the animal shelter!”
“I won’t – I’ll be in in a minute!” I am hanging up the last strand of Christmas lights around the front roofline of our home and can barely feel my fingers. It is late afternoon, and there is still frost from this morning on all of the vegetation in our neighborhood. Baby, it’s cold outside. Cold and dry.
I climb down from the ladder, put it away, and plug in the lights. Then I step back a bit to view my handiwork. Hmm. Strange how those eight bulbs worked just fine when I tested the lights forty-five minutes earlier, before stringing them up. Oh, for crying out loud. Sometimes I wonder why I bother.
I run in the house and wash up, calling out to Nigel to see if he’s ready to go. Every Sunday afternoon for the past several weeks, we’ve volunteered at our local animal shelter as part of a community service requirement for his next level of Boy Scouts. The animal shelter welcomes under-18 volunteers as long as their parents accompany them. And so, we both go.
Initially, I resisted this time taken out of my much-needed and usually full weekends. How could we – I – possibly fit it yet another activity? How could I possibly get everything done? When was I going to squeeze in some down time? I already volunteer for the Autism Society of Oregon and various other Scout activities. Furthermore, we have pets at home to take care of! I didn’t have time to volunteer to take care of more animals! I did realize, of course, that this was the perfect opportunity for Nigel to get in his community service time for Scouts. The animal shelter is only a five-minute drive away, and Nigel loves animals. I decided to grin and bear it.
We get in the car and drive to the shelter. I laid down the law before we even started there four weeks ago: no new pets. No matter how cute they are, no matter how much you love them, no matter how long they’ve been at the shelter. Nigel had agreed. But after a month of being surrounded by cute kitties in need, Nigel starts saying things like, “I wish we could afford to take you home with us” when he’s holding a cat and I’m in earshot. I remind him of his irritation with cleaning the cat litter for the cats that we already have. He considers this a moment.
“I know!” Nigel exclaims. “I want to start my own animal shelter! That way, I can have lots of cats and have employees and volunteers to help take care of them.”
So. We’ll just add that to the list of potential careers for my son, right up there with inventor and astronaut. But then I realize that he’s absolutely right. He loves animals and wants to help those in need. And that’s exactly what he told me when I asked him why he wanted to start an animal shelter. I said that we could certainly look into it.
Meanwhile, my grin-and-bear-it time has turned out differently than I thought it would. I find that while I’m holding and petting the adult cats and playing with the kittens, I’m not thinking about anything else. I’m not stressing about the things that I’m not getting done and the time that I’m losing. I know! Can you believe it?! I just sit there and relax! There’s no computer, no phone, no calendar, no errands. It’s actually just what I needed.
The hour passes quickly, and we sign out and go home. When we pull up to the house, Nigel comments in a dry tone, “It seems like some bulbs aren’t working.”
And the best part is that it doesn’t even bother me.