Can salvation be extended to include others? It is its own reward

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

It was an icy cold, snowy day in the village of Valatie, N.Y. My youngest sister was returning home after long, somewhat unproductive, hours spent working in her studio/store.

Her dream of creating pieces of art and offering them for sale in a combination workplace and salesroom was not meeting her expectations. Some saw her productions as costume jewelry, perused, commented, and left without purchase.

She was busily pouring her heart and spirit into these pieces, remaining naive and unready for crass commercialism and cutthroat competition. This was also a time of serious economic distress. The combination was deadly. So, the days were long and draining. Hope was seeping slowly from her naturally optimistic outlook. Intimations of the venture’s mortality loomed large.

As she drove the short distance from studio to hearth, her mind was racing. Pragmatism warred with idealism. Should she tough it out despite her losses? What is gain, really? Was there something more enticing and more suited to her temperament waiting around the corner? Could she maintain her trust this was not simply a lesson learned, but an adventure gained?

The whirling thoughts were arrested when, out of the corner of her eye, she glimpsed a waif of a cat. It was beat up, weak and worrisome, in the middle of the sidewalk way out in the open, racing to who-knows-where. It was simply a glance, a creature noted, in the midst of more important human inquiries, but the sight would not be denied.

Once viewed, the fragile feline could not be dismissed from her mind. In a flash, my sister turned her car around, zipped into a CVS parking lot, stopped, opened the door and uttered the words every stray wants to hear.

“Here, Kitty-Kitty!” Unhesitatingly, Kitty-Kitty came directly to her.

And now the story begins. My sister picked her up and put her in the van, and that was that. The rescue had begun.

As my sister tells it: “She spent the night in my van...with bed, food, water, litter box and extra ‘blankies’. The poor thing looked awful...skinny, patchy fur, and just soooo tired.

“She ate slowly, drank, and went right into her bed, with extra blankies and all, and fell sound asleep. I peeked in on her every hour or so. I was sure that she would just die right there, from exhaustion. Well, she didn’t.

“Bright and early in the morning, our newly named Linguine and I went to the vet. She had a physical exam, and the first assessment was just that she needed to eat, be de-flea-ed (her skin was appallingly rashy and raw from flea infestation), get an antibiotic, and she might be able to go ‘home’. Until...Linguine had a seizure right there in front of us, on the examining table, and fell to the floor. So the vet said he would take her for overnight observation to see what else may develop.

“She is such a lovey cat...just isn’t wild...so the chances are she suffered neglect or was abandoned. She is about 8 years old or possibly older. What a shame that her life has come to this point! I went back to see how she was doing, and it looks like no more seizures. As of the afternoon, she was eating well, so I was told that I’d be called in the morning with more information.

“If Linguine makes it, then we are faced with ‘adoption,’ which only makes husband Jimmy laugh because he says there is no doubt who the adoptive parents will be!”

But the tale tangles. There is Pilar, presently an “only feline child” dwelling in their household. I think she would argue two cats is one too many. I think she will meow we are fine, thank you, just fine as we are.

Can salvation be extended to include others, especially others who are scrawny, obviously needy, and will occupy a great deal of time, energy, and attention? Where is the reward in that? What need is there in disturbing an obviously serene status quo?

The questions lingered in the air, unanswered while Linguine’s condition was monitored and assessed. Pilar need not have been anxious. Her woes were without warrant. Linguine was not destined to reside in her household. Seriously ill, she would need special care. The trauma of placement in a family that already had cat membership was out of the question.

Pilar was to remain an “only child.” Now, my sister was determined to find an adoptive home for Linguine. Time was of the essence. Though she searched high and low, adoption was unavailable. There was one choice left. It was one that broke my sister’s tender heart.

She wrote to tell me: “There is no good news for Linguine. Today she will be euthanized. I sobbed last night. It’s a long story and I just couldn’t ‘buy’ her the time needed for placement. I have learned a hard lesson. If you rescue a stray, be sure that you have a place and person to foster it before you make that decision. I’ll never take in a stray without first knowing there’s a place for it. I hope Linguine will forgive my mistake...I’ll make it up to her in some way.”

Her words tore at my spirit. I had to respond with more than condolence, more than compassion. I had to affirm for my sister what her husband had already told her. “Do not put your actions down. Do not negate your goodness, your charity, your concern for life. Your intent came from the heart. That is what counts.”

My sister turned her car around, stopped, called, and stooped to retrieve one of God’s lost creatures. She gave of herself and her goods, her time, treasure, and talent, to participate in salvation. Linguine was saved, not to live in my sister’s house, but to live freely and without pain in the ways of divinity. There was neither heedlessness nor carelessness in what my sister did. There is no need for atonement. Salvation is its own reward.

Fran Salone-Pelletier has a master’s degree in theology and is the author of “Awakening to God: The Sunday Readings in Our Lives” [a trilogy of scriptural meditations], lead chaplain at Brunswick Community Hospital, religious educator, retreat leader and lecturer.