This isn’t my normal post. It’s far from it.
Today I had the honor of meeting with some people who do the great and admirable job of trying to save stray animals from a sad and untimely death by euthanasia. I’m a dog guy, I’ve said that I think a half-dozen times in posts. I think dogs are wonderful creatures. Over the years we’ve had I think, as an adult, ten or twelve dogs. We’ve got one now. Max. For years, since the death of my two last ones, a gorgeous Golden Retriever and a Mastiff, a gentle giant who stole the heart of anyone who took the time to know him, I’ve fought getting another. I get terribly attached to animals. I loved those dogs. They were family. It was a hard thing getting over them. Their pictures hang with those of our children. Some might think that silly. I don’t feel that way. In fact I pity those that cannot understand that a pet is capable of an unconditional kind of affection that you’ll never find in a human. No matter the mood, no matter the time, no matter what, a dog is glad to see you. I wish I could see them again. I still miss them. Terribly.
I got home tonight, out of curiosity and pulled up the adoption database for strays.
Not hundreds. Not thousands. Hundreds of thousands. Dogs. Cats. Horses. Birds. Reptiles. Slaughtered by the thousands, every day. It’s always been there in the back of my mind. Once about ten years ago, we got a dog from the pound. I’d stopped by to do service work on something and they were carrying one out to be euthanized. We gained another dog that day. Bisquick. Because he was five minutes from being done. Dark humor I suppose, but still, he lived a comfortable and full life at home with us even if he was terrified of adults. He would only come to my children.
But, I, like so many others tuned it out. I sit in front of my plasma television. With my thousand dollar laptop, with a nice vehicle in the garage. No, two. I’m wearing nice clothes, I just ate a fine meal, and my biggest gripe today is that, well, I had to get a little dirty.
As I was riding with my youngest heading home and I hear this tiny voice. She’s reading the booklet I got from them highlighting the problem.
“Can’t we do something, Daddy?”
And I think for a moment. The hard but convenient answer is to try to explain the enormity of the issue. The overwhelming numbers. The statistics. But children don’t understand statistics. They don’t understand numbers. They understand instinctively the thing that we, as cynical and weathered adults forget. That ignoring it is a travesty.
So as I turn all these thoughts over in my head, all I keep coming back to is the only real answer.
“Yes,” I say. “Yes we can.”
So today I formulated a plan, and spoke to my family, including my children. No, I cannot save them all. We cannot. But we can save some. And we are going to. Because that, of all things that we, as humans, do is the most noble. Making a difference. In the life of another human. In saving the life of an animal. In saving life period. In doing something.
It’s easy to throw your hands up and say it’s impossible. It isn’t. It’s easy to look at the numbers and sigh and believe it’s impossible. It isn’t. It’s easy to look at hunger statistics and think, “we cannot save them all.”
But we can try. The biggest crime is not that these things occur. It is that they occur under our noses while we pretend they don’t happen. It’s in us pretending that we cannot make a difference. We can.
In Macedonia, a vast (not) country of two million people, after their country was ravaged by wildfires, the citizens united to plant 6 million trees in 2008. In a day. IN ONE DAY! Since then, every year they’ve banded together and in total they’ve planted almost 50 million.
And you have to ask, if a tiny country like that can band together to make a difference like that. What does that say to the rest of humanity?
It says that by getting your hands a little dirty once or twice a year, you can make a massive difference. It says that if a citizenry, if properly motivated, can accomplish what looks on paper to be impossible.
It says that if we say “No more,” in a collective voice, then we will destroy the problems that face us. It says that if we all stood up and said “No child goes hungry again.” Then they won’t. It says that if in a united effort we decide to leave this place better than we found it then we will.
It says, “Yes, we can make a difference.” It is not the duty of the government. It is not the responsibility of our elected officials. It is not the job of the charitable organizations. It is our job. It is the responsibility of humanity.
And as I sit looking at the querying eyes of my daughters, I realize that, in truth, that’s the only answer there ever really was.
“Yes, we can.”