The poor love their animals as much as anyone; though that might not appear to be the case when one visits their homes. At first glance you may find yourself saying something like, “They don’t even care enough to get their pets spayed or neutered. My God! They don’t even feed them!”
But the truth, my friends, as is so often the case in this life, runs much deeper than what we may be able to see.
Which is precisely why I feel this column regarding education is so vital to the community. It helps us all learn. (Yes, including myself. Few times do we learn more than when we write personally about something.) And when we learn, we are not so quick to harshly judge the lives of others. When we learn, we begin to understand. And when we understand, we begin to care. And when we care, we seek to help others. In the words of a song from my youth, “He ain’t heavy. He’s my brother.”
The following is an initial rough-draft letter I’ve kept, written once-upon-a-time by a student when my class was asked to tell me about things for which they were thankful.
“I am thankulled for my dog, Mr. T. she ant much some people say. but she loves me. And I love her. And that kounts for lots. I used to have 2 dogs but one died of something while I was holding him in bed. I am thankfull that I gots to hold him while he died. I cryed til I could not cry no more but it was okay. I will see him again at the bowrain brige someday mom says. dad put him in the trash can out front but I snuck back out of bed in the middel of the nite and buryed him in the woods behind my aprtment. I did not have a shovel so I used a sharp stick it took a long time but I loved him so much I never got tired. My drunk naybor billy says it’s because you are thankful they was in you life onced. My dog I have now we ant never named yet. we just calls her dog. She gots fleas and something mom calls mangie but we can’t affords to take her to a vet. I think she might be pragnunt. She was pragnunt back this summer. I don’t know what happened to her pupies. One day I never saw them anymore. I looked in trash can then but I did not find them there.
“We gots two cats kind of. We don’t let them in the aprtment cause we can’t aford litter box. We don’t never feed them. They catch birds I guess. I noticed lots other cats in the woods behind our aprtments. One was mising a eye. From a fight I guess. And one had its guts torn out. I petted it before it died. It did not scratch or bight me. I stayed with it untel it went over bowrain brige.
“Momma gots to go see the nut doctor later this week. I heared her say that she hears voices in her head teling her things. She says that life has throwed too much at her all at onced. She told me that daddy got a job out of town and that he’d have to work for few months before he came back. But I knowed that to be a lie. I heared my drunk naybor billy say that dad got sent to jail again. I still loves him. and my mom. and my dog. and all them cats. and you, Mr. T. and all that’s a hole lot that I am thankfulled for.”
The need for pet care amongst the poor is great, my friends. When I deliver goods to the needy as Santa this year (yes, I will wear a mask and follow distance precautions), I will be paying some extra special attention to that specific need. My sack will be carrying vouchers for free spay/neuter procedures and pet vaccinations.
And whatever life may be throwing at you this Thanksgiving season, my friends, may you, too, find it in your heart to be thankfulled.
Ben Talley is an inductee into the National Teachers Hall of Fame, a former Virginia Teacher of the Year, and a McGlothlin Award Winner for Teaching Excellence.
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