I have become one of those women who a month ago I used to make jokes about - a cat lady. While I have always loved animals and been attached to family pets as a kid, I never really understood the people who post pictures of their animals on Facebook or who start a conversation saying, "You'll never guess what Socks did today..."
This summer I completed my clinical pastoral education unit (CPE) working as a hospital chaplain for the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire. My primary unit on the hospital was in the Intensive Care Nursery (ICN). A challenging and formative environment, caring for sick and dying infants taught me that in order to minister in times of crisis, I need to further develop my self-care habits.
Anti-Cruelty Society. It was there that I met Cozmo, a seven-year-old, 17 pound cat who had been in the shelter for the past 2 months. I learned that because of his age and size, not one visitor had taken him out of his cage. He reminded me of the babies on the ICN, an innocent being that deserved love despite having qualities that may be seen as obstacles.
Rescuing Cozmo has been a great gift to my life. So grateful for love, he is always at my side. Even as I write this, his head is stretched across my hands as they type on the laptop. I knew that rescuing a cat would give me the opportunity to share love with another, and I thought it would fill the void of caring for my patients as I transition from CPE. What I have found is that receiving Cozmo's love is a better gift than receiving. As seminary students, it may be easy to focus on sharing Christ's love to others, but we must also be willing to recieve it in return. We cannot give what we do not have, and everytime I snuggle with my cat, I remind myself that to truly care for God's people I must first care for myself.
I now think differently about people who gush about their pets. If sharing with others the gift of giving and receiving love makes me one of those cat ladies, then it is a label I am happy to wear.