Animal Rescue

We left the Bingo Night fundraiser and headed home. Just me and the kids – Daddy had left the fundraiser to work at a different fundraiser. Busy night. Anyway, as we got on the highway, I noticed that we had two bars left on the gas gauge. Ok, might ought to get gas tomorrow some time, I thought.

Right after I passed the last main-part-of-town exit, I was down to one bar. Shoot, I thought. *sigh* Ok, I better take the next exit and drive back to the nearest gas station. It’s not that we live way outside of town. It’s just that I knew come the next morning, I’d be in a hurry and not have time to stop. Maybe I wouldn’t even notice or remember I needed gas.

I pulled up to a pump and Jane called out, “Hey, look! It’s a Looney Tunes Bunny.” I looked where she was pointing and saw a box abandoned next to the next pump over. I was dismayed.

With all the disappointment I could muster, I responded, “A Looney Tunes Bunny? A Looney Tunes Bunny?! That’s not just some Looney Tunes Bunny! That’s Bugs Bunny himself!”

“Well, ok, whatever. He’s a Looney Tunes Bunny.”

Her grandfather is not dead but if he was, he would have just rolled over in his grave. In fact, when he reads this, he might just drop dead and then roll over in his grave. Is Bugs that far out of popular culture?

Before I could take a picture, which had been my plan, Hal had fallen in love with a stuffed pug and the other two were snatching stuff up as well. I looked around and tried to decide what to do. The box wasn’t on its side, like it had fallen out of a truck. It was pushed up against the side of the pump like it had been left there deliberately. The box was open and Bugs was poking his head up out of the top. My initial reaction was that someone, for some reason, had left them there for the taking. And we needed stuffed animals for our VBS preschool program. So we emptied the box.

Hal even found Bugs’s missing ear in the box and reinserted it into his head.

As we drove away, I suddenly felt hollow. Surely those stuffed animals belonged to some little girl. What if her parents had threatened leaving them at the gas station if she didn’t stop doing whatever mischief she was doing. What if she was crying over her lost toys right now? What if her parents were mean and hateful?

Or maybe they had fallen out of a truck and some other kind soul had gathered them up and poked Bugs out of the top of the box to catch the owners’ attention if they returned. Maybe we were foiling someone else’s attempt at kindness. Maybe we were breaking some child’s heart. Some child whose heart would swell with hope when she saw the box and then be crushed with overwhelming sadness when she found it empty.

Or maybe they wouldn’t notice the box was missing until they were too far away. And they’d always just wonder whatever happened to that box of stuffed animals. Whether we were contributing to the child not being reunited with the toys or not, whether they ever would have come back or not, I sensed that there was or soon would be a very unhappy child.

After getting a censorious look from my husband when he got home, I settled on a course of action. I called the gas station to leave my phone number in case someone came looking for the animals. It took a bit of work to get the attendant to understand what I was trying to do. It seems unlikely anyone would come back. I mean, they first have to notice the box is missing and then they have to retrace all their steps, not knowing when it fell out. But still.

Now the gas station attendant thinks I’m crazy and has my first name and phone number. Odds are, he won’t pass the note on to whomever has the shift after him. Odds are, I’ll always feel a little sad and guilty about the little girl and her cute stuffed animals. Even if some other kids will love on them at VBS. And Hal will cherish the pug. And the little girl we are giving the rainbow horse to will love it. And we’ll make sure they all get loving homes. Even if. Guilty and sad and worried, I’ll be.

One of them was still in the car during the photo shoot, but here's most of rescued (or kidnapped?) gang.

One of them was still in the car during the photo shoot, but here’s most of rescued (or kidnapped?) gang.

When Your Comfort is Less Important Than Someone Else’s

There are certain things that I absolutely do not like to do.  Singing in front of people ranks high on the list.  Especially if it involves hand motions or dancing.  And forget it if I’m not familiar with the song.

It’s amazing how circumstances can affect what you offer to do.

Last night I was the group leader for the 4th and 5th grader group at Vacation Bible School.  Being the last night of VBS, all the groups were getting up one at a time to perform the songs they had been practicing all week in music class.  I was not the group leader the other four nights.  Just the last night.  No problem, though, the group leaders weren’t joining their kids in the theatrics so it didn’t matter that I didn’t know the songs.

My group was the smallest.  With several kids missing, we were down to only four kids: 3 boys and a girl.  A very self-conscious girl.  A very self-conscious girl who was getting more and more anxious about singing in front of the group.

I feel your pain, sister, I thought.  I wouldn’t want to get up there either.

As the oldest group, we were last.  By the time the group before us was heading to the front, a thought came to me.  I didn’t like the thought, but it came and it was right and it was good.

“Would you feel more comfortable if I went up there and sang with you?” I asked.  “Then you wouldn’t be the only girl.  Nor the only person who feels silly.”

“Yes, that would be a lot better,” she said.  I began to share her anxiety.

I looked around the room and reminded myself that it didn’t matter if any of those people thought I looked silly.  The girl would feel less silly and that made it worth it.  I’m forty – she’s ten.  One of our egos is more important to protect than the other’s and it ain’t mine.

And so I joined my little group on the stage, having no clue what songs we were about to sing.  The song leader announced a song that I knew and I breathed a small sigh of relief.  And then my precious angels corrected her – that wasn’t the right song.  I vaguely knew the new one and hung in there well enough.

The second song was from the curriculum so the words and a video of some kids doing the motions were projected on the wall in front of us.  I can handle this, I thought. Almost done.

And then the song started.  My kids started giggling.  They love the song.  Why do they love the song?  Because it gives them a chance to act like they are in Kindergarten.  It was so ridiculously below their grade level that it cracked them up.

Next thing I knew, I was having to roar like a lion and act like a cute kitten and swing my elephant trunk and flap my bird wings and hoot like an owl and jump like a frog.  Three or four times through.  No wonder that girl wanted me up there with her.  No way she was going to attract any attention with a grown woman trying to keep up next to her!

To top it off, they then called all the kids up for the theme song.  The girl checked to make sure I was staying.  And then Hal rushed to join me.  And then the song started.  It was impossibly fast-paced with so many motions that I couldn’t possibly watch the motions and read the lyrics and sing.  So I ended up just holding the cardboard house that kept getting knocked over and hoping that if anyone was video-taping, they weren’t trained on the woman standing there red-faced in the sea of dancing youthful energy.

I think that’s the truest sign of maturity and age, when you willingly give up your dignity for the sake of others.

Addendum:  When I read this to my husband, he said that I was wrong, that the truest sign of maturity and age is when you recognize that you are not giving up your dignity at all.  And he is right.