“I minister to the underbelly of society” was the response I got when I recently asked a woman what she did for a living. She leads a church in one of the toughest communities in central Ohio, and many of the people who attend are homeless. I was a bit surprised by the comment, because I believe she is caring for some of the most spiritual humans on the planet. And they are equaled in grace by the pets that stay by their side, day and night.
I marvel at the way these animals watch over their human companions who have fallen on extremely hard times, or who are unable to accept help. It is the canine who is the guardian in the relationship. The homeless person and pet take the human-animal bond to an entirely different dimension.
Why do I believe homeless people and animals are spiritually advanced? The entire answer is beyond the scope of this writing, but a few reasons come to mind. They have endurance that I can’t imagine. They require that we look beyond our own needs, and open up our hearts. When we help someone else, we become better people. It is they who heal us each time we buy them a cup of coffee on a cold morning, serve them a meal, or donate to an organization dedicated to relieving their suffering. In fact, it may not be about helping them at all, but about honoring and respecting them.
This year, try and slow down a bit and look around you. When you can’t see the suffering of others this holiday season, or ignore the ringing bell and red bucket, know that it is really you who is being hurt by closing your heart. Thank goodness people in need are being looked after by a higher power, and sometimes that higher power has four legs and fur.