Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Guest Speaker

Bella's foster mom was asked to speak to her church on celebrating abundance. She shared with me the speech she gave - and I'm honored to share it with you.

“Won’t it be hard to give her up?”

Good morning. My name is Rachel Shoger, and this is Bella. As many of you know, Bella is a service dog in training for an organization called “Helping Paws”. My family and I are her foster home for about 2 and 1/2 years, during which time she and I go to class every week to learn what it takes to be a service dog. We have homework every week: skills to work on, places to visit, people to meet. When she is not “working”, she is either following me around the house, looking for things to do for me, or running in our yard, chasing squirrels, eating grass and sticks, and doing other doggish-type activities. In the evenings, after helping everyone get their socks off, she snuggles up for homework, books, or movies with us. She is a wonderful dog, and we love her very much.

Many people, when they learn about what we are doing, ask, “Won’t it be hard to give her up?” Of course, the answer is “Yes, it will.” But it is much more complicated than that one question and answer. Bella won’t ever be something my family is “done with” and ready to pass along to someone else. Bella is a gift, born of abundance in my own life.

When Rick first asked me to speak to you about abundance, I began thinking “Where is there abundance is my life?” “Where is my heart full?” I honestly could not think of one area in which my life is lacking. But I was pretty sure he didn’t want me to talk for the whole service, so I sat down to give it some more thought. Bella, always at my side, sat down beside me and put her head in my lap. Now, Bella can sense when something is bothering me, and really works to help me in whatever way she can. So before I knew it, she was bringing me various objects left on the floor by my family: a dirty sock, a used Kleenex, a couple of Legos. And her devotion, her desire to please, the singularity of her mission in life, made me see the real abundance in my life: Bella lives to make my life easier, but my life is already easy. It may seem an oxymoron, but my heart is overflowing because of the simplicity of my life. I have my family and my friends. We have our health. I have a house, and three meals a day. I have running water in my home. There is no war being waged in my neighborhood. No one close to me is even fighting in Iraq.

Bella reminds me every day of the simplicity of my life. I teach her to turn on lights, and open doors, and help me take off my coat. And I realize how fortunate I am because I can do these things for myself. I can drive alone. I can walk up the stairs. I can pick up my keys if I drop them. But there are those who cannot do these things. The mission of Helping Paws is to further the independence of people with physical disabilities through the use of service dogs. Bella will give someone their independence. And she will love every minute of it! Bella loves to do things for me just because she can, and because she knows it makes me happy.

When you have a neighbor or friend who is sick, or a sister who has had a baby, you might bring the family dinner. Do you look through your cupboards for expired cans and boxes? Do you dig around in your fridge for leftovers? No! You take time to plan and shop and cook a delicious meal. Would it be nice if your own family could eat it? Yes! But that other family needs it more than yours. You give it away because it is so good. You give it to them because, amidst all that you cannot do for them, it is one thing that you can do.

When one of my children is invited to a birthday party, we don’t go the basement, looking for some old or broken toy that we are done with. We take the time to shop for something fun and interesting. Something one of us might love. (Indeed, tears have been shed at my home over toys that need to be wrapped rather than unwrapped!) Would it be nice to keep that toy? Isn’t it hard to give it away? YES! But we give it away because it is so wonderful. Because it will make someone so happy.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

A gift is something you give that is a piece of you, not something you give away because you don’t like it or need it anymore. Some gifts are easier to give than others, but all gifts are meaningful, both to the receiver and the giver. That’s what makes them special: because they mean something to us.

Every day you can look at the newspaper, and see a world that is broken, filled with anguish and despair. You can grieve, and cry about it. BUT, you can also, through your own hard work, give the world back a portion of its lost heart. All of you do that every day in so many ways, through so many deeds. Bella is one way that our family is trying to accomplish this.

So when Bella chooses her new life partner, we will celebrate with her, and we will say good-bye. We will be sad because we love her. But we will be reminded that loving someone or something doesn’t mean you get to keep it forever. And letting something go doesn’t mean you don’t love it anymore.

We love Bella, and we would love to keep her. THAT is why we can give her up. She is our gift back to a world that has already given us so much.

So when asked “How can you give her up?”

Our answer is, “How can we not?”

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