Millions of Cats is a timeless children's story about a little old man and woman longing to fill their loneliness with a pet cat. The old man travels far and wide and comes upon a land filled with every variety of cat. He gathers up a beautiful grey one and then sees a brown one. He takes that one too. He can't resist a striped one and a black one and a white one as well. Before long, attracted to the beauty of each, he's gathered them all and headed for home.
There's more to the story that touches my heart but I've always related to that old man. I feel the same about babies everywhere. I would and could, collect them all.
I stood in the doorway of a nursery lined with beds. The wide eyes of babies varying in age, peering between bars as two attendants gave instructions for our afternoon's charge.
Pick an infant to hold, feed and play.
I sucked in my breath and steeled my heart of the task at hand.
Which bed? Which little one? Don't fall in love.
I walked down the row of beds and a brightly smiling boy pulled himself to standing clinging tightly to the bars. Lifting him out, I reflected his radiance.
"Tell me his name?" I asked the young girl in charge. "His name is Pierson." she replied heavily accented.
I talked gently in his ear and hummed a tune close to ease his comfort into the newness of our situation. We had a few hours and I knew we could be friends.
We walked around the room jabbering colors and sights. I did the talking. He did the gentle touching of my moving lips. Passing a taped and torn classroom list posted to the paint peeling cinder block, we searched for his name on the roster. "Person" he was listed, a far cry from the misunderstood pronunciation.
We found a quiet corner and the lack of toys invited playful creativity. Finger games and clapping songs delighted, peek-a-boo elicited peals of laughter followed by tickles and a quick lesson in blowing kisses.
Unexpectedly, he dived in, wrapping his arms around my chest and leaning his head against my heart. There he stay. The time wore on and I felt the even rhythm of his breathing deepen. I'd held so many babies before. I knew the pattern. Anticipating his heavy eyes and sagging muscles, I shifted my weight against the wall and settling in for his eminent napping.
My eyes roamed the others in the room. Their plight was the same. Every little one lay, eyes alert and bodies perfectly complacent. The magic of the minutes wore on as the clock ticked away it's hours and those tiny eyes never closed to risk a missing beat. The room remained still, wrapped in a trance of human connection.
"Please place your baby on the center rug and make an immediate exit from the room." came the instruction.
Ceasing my humming, his face tilted, turning his sleepless eyes up to meet mine. We made our way to the rug and I stooped to settle him there. His little chin quivered and eyes grew watery without breaking. Don't break. Don't break, I begged internally. To alleviate the moment, I blew a kiss and through the quaking, he returned the gesture.
And I stood and retreated fighting the last look that would break me to pieces.
Outside the walls, I crumbled into the the dirt at the weight of the inherent needs of human connection.
If you don't believe that every being has an instinctive desire to be felt, heard, seen, validated, loved, known, or noticed ...
Just watch a group of ecstatic young ladies receive the first new dress they've seen in awhile.
I'm reminded of the worth of a soul ... to appreciate and be appreciated ... to value and be valued.
Better yet, look at the number of selfies on social media sites. Even these ladies in the very recesses of urban existence, knew the meaning of a selfie ;)
Everyone just wants to be beautiful.
I spent a day with a remarkable group of girls. They carry the weight of families to care for. They live lives of gratitude. They answer each moment with grace.
Each wanted their picture taken. Each laughed and giggled at the reflection it showed then came again to have her beauties pointed out. There was less laughter over the true reflection of their value and worth.
I hoped I'd never forget that need.
Not in the grocery line or the post office. Not on the phone with the telemarketer or in rush hour traffic. Not at two A.M with an errant school age child. Not with a tired spouse or a whiny toddler. Not with a stomping adolescent or a willful teen.
And not as I kneel in prayer, hoping to be seen and heard myself.
"Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile."
-- Mother Theresa
See, hear, feel, and love. Forever and where ever you go.