Where Am I?

Where Am I?

Detours in Life

Pentecost 17-18


We all have gotten caught in that detour of community in which we are the odd man out.  Sometimes it is because we are more mature than others.  Sometimes it is because we are not contributing to gossip and sometimes, well sometimes it is because people can be mean.  When we are on the receiving end of being cast out, thrown into a detour of social mayhem, we often feel not only discluded and left out but as if we were on a different planet or perhaps, an alien.


My cat is a rescue pet, adopted from a shelter and much loved by the family.  That does not change the fact that she may be an alien.  The word alien can mean many different things but seriously, my cat fits most of those definitions. 


An alien is an entity that is extrinsic to things.  Extrinsic is a word we seldom hear used but it really is a delightful word.  Basically it means “coming from the outside of something”.  Having spent the first several years of her life as a feral cat, she meets that definition.  Feral refers to something living is a wild state.  Wild in animals is considered “untamed” or acting outside the social boundaries of domestication.  Some of our political candidates would qualify as feral with that definition!


Usually a feral cat is a cat that has in its heritage the lineage of a domesticated cat but, for a variety of reasons, has not lived in a domesticated setting.  The problem of stray animals can be attributed to one thing – Animals living according to natural instincts, breeding at will.  While everyone loves a cute kitten or sleepy puppy, the world cannot provide enough homes for these animals.  They live on the streets, homeless and often abandoned. 


Life is sometimes described in harsh clichés and one of this is “It’s a dog eat dog world.”  If you are a small kitten in that “dog eat dog” environment, you learn to fight for every single thing you need to stay alive.  My cat came to us distrusting of our other pets but we have made progress in the past years.  She accepts us marginally and we have come to accept her.


One of those things begging acceptance is her distrust of her next meal.  Having used feeder bowls for our pets, it has been quite the change to not be able to have food available at all times.  Cats are usually very good at eating only when hungry.  This particular cat, however, gorges herself whenever food is available.  She still has the memories of those days of hunger and makes good use of food when possible.  Of course, her stomach only holds so much and some comes back up. 


We all have things we don’t trust in our lives.  Past living leaves its mark and earning trust and having faith is hard.  Often what we need to trust is ourselves.  We allow the extrinsic aspects of life inside; we allow our basic goodness to become altered and uncultivated our belief in ourselves.


My cat’s propensity to eat everything whenever possible is not why I think she is an alien.  Quite honestly, she probably feels we are the aliens.  Remember, an alien is something or someone who is not in their originating habitat.  Conception is the body’s way of having faith in the future.  It is the continuance of life itself and yet, once we are self-sufficient, we tend to not take care of that life and the life of others.


Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”  What did you do yesterday for someone or something else (i.e., a pet or other animal)?  We seldom see aliens portrayed as helping each other.  The aliens of Dr. Who are a well-trained army but when one falls down, the others just walk right over them.  The aliens of countless other science fiction programs are similar. 


In the political world, aliens are portrayed as wanting to go to a new country and usurp all the resources for themselves.  Much like my cat, they are seen as gorging on all available jobs, housing, and amenities which leaves nothing for the natives of the area.  Candidates and politicians are constantly reminding us that the world cannot sustain everything in it and yet, somehow life does go on.


Aliens are portrayed as unsocial beings that simply are there – staring at the rest of us, saying very little.  We had been the roommates of this particular cat for almost three years before we heard her purr.  Purring is one of those great mysteries that cats like to maintain since the how and why of the vocalization is still one of the great unknowns.  We assume it is a sign of pleasure and I will confess to being troubled that this cat that had many creature comforts never purred.  Then one day she purred and anxiously looked around.  It was at that moment I realized her homeless lifestyle had relied on her silence and purring would have given away her hiding places.


Our pets are a reflection of ourselves and how we live.  My cat is an alien because she never knew affection in her early years.  It might have taken my cat the alien a few years to trust us enough to purr but one thing she did from the day we adopted her was to care for others.  Whenever anyone is ill, that cat is sitting on the floor or bed right near them.  Her compassion has always been evident, even if it is sometimes annoying.


Many of us go through our daily schedule like aliens.  We never reach out to help others, fearful that by giving we might lose something.  The truth is we only gain when we give of ourselves.  You are just one person, I know.  You cannot solve all the world’s problems; I know.  Edward Everett Hale knew this as well when he wrote:  “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something I can do.” 


Don’t be an alien today, simply going through the world without making a positive impact on it. You can do something positive for another.  You might just discover a whole tribe of other aliens out there, ready to accept you and let you join.  Life throws us detours and so do our fellow human beings.  When that happens, we need to carry one and do a kindness for another, not pass along the negativity.  IF nothing else, doing a kindness for another will make you feel better and included.  A detour of kindness is a great detour.   It might just also be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself.


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