Ginger and I have had a difficult relationship. She is aloof, standoffish and rude. She doesn't respect boundaries and she has no respect for nature. Once when an over exuberant puppy Ellie tried to say hello to her, Ginger slashed Ellie's ear.
Ginger is a cat.
My relationship with Ginger started off badly. I didn't know if she lived nearby or was one of the many feral cats that grace our neighborhood. All I knew was she liked to sleep in our flower beds. Not just in the flower bed, though, she preferred to sleep on top of the flowers. I can't tell you how many impatiens, hostas and vincas she has totally flattened by choosing them as her bed.
That was until Richard.
When Richard and Liz moved in next door, I noticed Ginger no longer slept in my flower bed. I rejoiced even though I didn't know the reason. In fact, it wasn't until many months later I found out why. One day I mentioned Ginger to Richard and referred to her as "your cat" (because I don't really know her name, I just call her Ginger because she is a ginger-striped cat.)
Richard quickly told me that she wasn't his cat, but that she hung around their house a lot. He also told me he had begun leaving an outside storage room door open so she could go in there at night and be out of the weather. I suspect there was probably some cat food involved in that as well. So Ginger stayed close to their house and became, for all intents and purposes, Richard's cat.
Ginger no longer using my flowers as her mattress softened my heart toward her. Then hearing Richard had given her shelter, and I'm sure food, helped to change my attitude even more. Now, I am not a cat person, in fact, Glen and I are both allergic to cats. But I feel sympathetic toward Ginger. Especially since Richard passed away suddenly last month. Animals are so sensitive to the feelings of their humans, I know she must be aware of Liz's grief. Surely, Ginger misses and grieves for him as well.
So this morning when Ellie spotted Ginger across the yard, and her hackles raised up as they do each time she sees Ginger, I reminded her that Ginger is "okay". Knowing Ginger had my stamp of approval, Ellie settled down without even a bark, though she didn't take her eyes off of her. Perhaps that ear still stings a bit.
The point is, everyone has a history. Everyone has issues, problems and scars. Most of the time we have no idea what the people we encounter are really experiencing. Is that person aloof, standoffish and rude? Perhaps they are just hungry and wondering where they will sleep that night. Do they not respect boundaries or nature? Perhaps they are distracted by continual pain. Do they slash out at our attempts of friendship? Perhaps they have been ignored or hurt by others so deeply and for so long they have forgotten the sweet taste of friendship and love.
When we encounter "Gingers" in our path, let us give them the benefit of the doubt. Wouldn't we like the same done to us? Let us remember we don't really know what is going on in their lives. Let us respond with kindness and love, even if we receive none in return.
"Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved,
bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind,
meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another,
and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any;
even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
And above all these things put on charity,
which is the bond of perfectness."