Monday, May 31, 2010

June 1--Hug Your Cat Day

Okay, so tomorrow is Hug Your Cat Day. That caught my attention when I read it. Most animals don't enjoy hugging, but I've seen my kiddos hug cats--and also dogs, deer, ponies, frogs, and just the other night, salamanders.

But, there is just something innate in humans that makes us want to express our love and warmth for other living things by hugging them. Most domesticated animals tolerate hugging even though it goes against their natural inclinations. When a dog or cat hugs another dog or cat it has much different meaning, if you get my drift.

About five years ago, a kitten showed up out of the cornfield. A beautiful washed-out calico of light gray, white, and pale orange, she looked to be about four months old. Most likely she either wandered into the corn field and lost her way or her momma dropped her off there and left her to fend for herself. Either way, she hit pay-dirt when she found her way into our backyard. The kids named her Darla and she followed us everywhere, crying non-stop unless you petted her. She even followed us around the house, crying outside the window of whatever room we happened to be in at the time. Soon she adjusted to life in the barn and settled down. But one really annoying habit remained--her claws.

Outdoor cats need their claws to catch mice and birds and to fend off attacks from stray cats, coyotes, or dogs. They keep them razor sharp and don't realize the damage they can do, even in play or affection. If you don't pay attention quick enough to her pleas for a little lovin', Darla climbs up you to get in your face. In the summer when clothing is minimal, this makes for a mighty uncomfortable experience! Darla is not content to just sit at your feet and let you pet her. Like so many animals, she doesn't rest until she is literally face-to-face with you. If you make the mistake of picking her up, she hoists herself up--using those dagger-like claws--to push her nose right up yours.

Well, the summer that Darla came, Jot decided she would be his "girlfriend". He'd cart her around the yard, lie in the grass with her, swing her on the swing with him, and sneak her into the house to snuggle on the couch and watch TV. He told everyone that would listen that when he grew up Darla would be his wife. (I resisted the urge to tell him that I was pretty sure this was illegal. I hoped he would grow out of it--he has.)

I've told you before about Jot's objection to clothing, so it should come as no surprise to you that for most of the summer--at least when we are home--Jot typically wears only cut-off jeans and nothing else. The rest of us couldn't understand how this bare-chested little boy could haul this cat around all summer with nary a scratch on him.

One night, my hubby pulled in the driveway and noticed Jot, clad only in underwear, carrying Darla around the backyard singing to her. "Who ya got there?" asked hubby, shutting the barn door.

"My girlfriend."

"How come you are the only one who can carry that cat around and not get all scratched up?"

"Cause she loves me," replied Jot, rubbing his cheek on Darla's head.

"Why does she love you so much?"

"I give her cheese."

Apparently, all summer long, Jot had unwrapped the little cellophane-covered squares of cheese and fed them to his "girlfriend".

Do you have someone in your life that is "scratchy" to love? Maybe your teenager? Your boss? Your mother-in-law? The lesson God taught me through Jot's relationship with Darla is that love is worth going to extreme measures to get and to give. Through his little gift of cheese a few times a week, he had a fast friend for the entire summer.

There are people in our life that we are called to love. There are people in our life that are difficult to love. God says, speak the language of love that they understand. If you need to give them food (or other inexpensive gifts) to butter them up--give it. If they understand love as T-I-M-E--spend it. If they feel loved when you invest in them through acts of service--do it. If all they require from you is a loving and gentle touch--invest it. If they long to hear words of affirmation to feel loved by you--spill it.

It really doesn't matter if those aren't the ways you feel loved. It is about what they understand and what speaks to their heart. The love and affection you gain in return will make it worth your while. As my kids get older, I need to alter some of the ways I show love to them--at least some of the time. They no longer fit on my lap. They would die of embarrassment if I kissed them in front of their friends. And their feet are way to big and smelly to make me want to kiss them anymore. I may have to search harder for the "cheese" that will cement our relationship. But I know it'll be worth it. Get out there and hug a cat today!

What have you found to work with the scratchy people in your life?

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