June 2, 2006 was my last day with 8 State Hurricane Kate. You may know her story from my first book, 8 State Hurricane Kate: The Journey and Legacy of a Katrina Cattle Dog. It was with great sadness that I spent that last beautiful early summer day with her, a perfect day to sit together on the hill and say our goodbyes. I wanted to remember everything about her, forever.
A year to the day later, on June 2, 2007, a striking bright orange poppy bloomed in my backyard, near where Kate had rested on that last afternoon. It leapt out of the dark foliage, announcing its presence. The seed was probably planted by a bird, if you know what I mean. But poppies don’t grow here naturally. I had a strong feeling that this beautiful flower was a gift from Kate.
In 2007, I declared June 2nd “Kindness for Kate Day”. In Kate’s honor, I asked people to perform an act of kindness to make the world a better place… plant a flower, say a prayer, help somebody, give hope to a homeless animal or a homeless person, collect spare change and donate it to an animal rescue group or a food shelf, appreciate someone’s efforts, volunteer, or come up with another idea and share it. I challenged people to do something new that they hadn’t done before. I wanted to make June 2nd an awesome day.
In the past few years, a poppy has bloomed in my backyard every year around June 2nd. But now that first poppy has multiplied into a beautiful poppy garden that blooms briefly, reminding me of that June 2nd in 2006.
Why am I talking about June in the middle of winter? Because I’m thinking about planting seeds. I’m thinking about the seeds I planted during the past year, and the seeds that I want to plant this year. Some of our seeds grow and bloom, yet others don’t seem to germinate. Over time, however, some will grow into a beautiful perennial garden that we and others can enjoy.
That one orange poppy that spread into a beautiful garden was like the network of caring people who came together to help the lost Katrina animals, then returned to their homes all over the country and stayed in contact, forming a powerful network. It was like how telling Kate’s story connected me with so many caring people all over the country, and even the world. It was like how that one single decision to go to Louisiana to help lost animals completely changed my life. I have grown too.
Sometimes the seeds that we plant and water and nurture don’t grow into the flowers we envisioned. Yet other seeds that we didn’t even know we had sown yield beautiful and amazing gardens. What seeds have you planted in the past year? What seeds do you want to plant next? What small actions can you take every day to make the world a better place?
I’m reminded of a local story that just concluded with a happy ending. While on a walk with her foster mom, a rescued Sheltie named Lady broke loose and was running free in a St. Paul suburb. Lady was spooked easily and was running scared. People had spotted her, but days went by as the rescue group and local volunteers searched. Winter was coming and the weather was getting colder. Efforts to find and even live-trap Lady were in vain.
One afternoon, a man driving home from work spotted a dog in an industrial area, miles from where Lady had last been seen. He recognized Lady and drove to the grocery store to find the phone number on a flyer he had seen. He called the number, then drove back to the industrial area and found Lady again. But he couldn’t approach her; she was too scared. He followed instructions given to him on the phone and kept an eye on Lady from a distance while Sheltie rescue called volunteers. The foster mom, Mel, and others arrived and sat in a ring around the empty lot, encircling Lady from a distance. Eventually, Mel entered the circle. Each time Lady tried to find an escape route, the person on that side of the circle stood up to keep her from bolting away. Eventually, with much patience, Mel got close enough for Lady to recognize her. Mel spoke, touched Lady, and both relaxed, relieved. With tears in her eyes, Mel fastened Lady’s harness and carried her safely to the car.
If the man, Brad, a complete stranger, had not noticed Lady, interrupted his routine and acted right away, Lady might still be running scared. If volunteers had not immediately dropped what they were doing in the middle of a work day and gone to help form the circle… if people had not listened to the instructions to NOT approach Lady… she might still be out there, or might not have survived.
But that’s not the whole story. Mel realized how much Lady meant to her and decided she didn’t want to be separated again. So now Lady is home with Mel forever. And get this: In an interview on local TV, Mel said that she didn’t even know who had posted that flyer at the grocery store, but she was certainly grateful.
Who posted the flyer at the grocery store?
Think about it. One seemingly small action: a person putting up a flyer about a lost dog at a grocery store. One tired man on his way home from work who remembered seeing the flyer at the grocery store and acted immediately. One patient group of people who showed up right away to form a circle around the scared dog. And, of course, the rescue group and foster mom. They all made a difference. But the happy ending started with the person who posted the flyer at the grocery store.
Think about the seeds you want to sow in 2012, the “flyers” you want to post. If changing the whole world for the better seems like an overwhelming goal, think about the small things that you can do every day to make a difference, about each bright orange poppy you can plant. Think about the seemingly small decisions you make and actions you take each day. By the end of the year, you might just have an amazing poppy garden… or an amazing “puppy” garden.
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