In every medical endeavor involving any species there are people who are there to herd the monies in the right direction. The cost of Lucas’ operation was going to be high. I went and got a first opinion from a vet I wound up not liking and that was expensive, too. But this isn’t about money or how much things cost. This is about the people within a system where there is money being exchanged. This is about small job and large hearts. This is about the journey not the destination.
A couple weeks ago, on my girlfriend’s birthday we went to a very nice restaurant. It was going to be our last night out for a very long time, we were sure of that, and it would certainly be our last night out at this level. At that point we only knew that I was going to take a pretty good hit in the check book but we decided to go out and for one night forget about what was to come.
The waiter’s name was Russ. He came and went with a sense of fluidity that only people who know people can accomplish. We seemed to realize this was a bittersweet night for us and he also knew his job. He knew the menu. He knew the wine and how to serve it. Russ was like a good friend who was hosting a party at his house and we were good friends he wanted to take care of in his house. We had a gift certificate that covered most of the bill but I left him a tip he’ll remember. Russ didn’t cook the food or make the wine, but he made the experience a little more special but being who he needed to be.
The woman who was explaining the finances at the Small Animal Hospital was named Bianca. She sat down with me and explained what it might cost and how I might be able to finance it all. She was very young, I thought, and while she was speaking to me about money Lucas was taken away from me, lead away through a door, and suddenly it was all very real. My dog was gone. I might never see him again.
But Bianca guided me through what was and what was going to be. I asked her about the tattoo on her wrist. ‘Without Fear” in Italian was written there in ink, never to be removed or to fade. I cannot say that seeing that made my mind up. I can tell you that inspiration is found in small and unlooked for places. Kindness and compassion are contagious. A young woman with a tattoo told me that in the end, I would be gutted financially. Realism is her job. How she delivered the news was another story altogether. This was more about Lucas than money to me and somehow, even though this is how Bianca makes her living, I felt like she wanted Lucas to live.
Someone sent me five dollars. They also sent me an apology for not sending more. After all, considering all things, what on earth could five dollars do for Lucas and myself? It’s a gallon of gas and a bottle of water. But I needed a gallon of gas and a bottle of water. More than that, I needed, desperately needed, to know that people cared. I had no idea how much I needed that until strangers, online and in person, began to show me they cared.
Does one hundred dollars mean someone cares more than five? No. In a sense, the person giving me five dollars is giving me more of what they can than someone handing me a hundred. The idea of caring about a dog that someone will never see in person is not alien to me. I care about Popeye and Violet. Ranger and Pepper, Houdini and Karma. These are all dogs I will never meet but in my own way, I love.
It never occurred to me so many people would love Lucas. I am awed. I am daunted. I am brought to a level of humanity I did not think existed in so many people. I have written thank you notes to everyone who has sent me anything. I got this back:
“The world is a funny place. Me I appreciate your writing and more importantly your love of your friends. Cheers mate! I wish I could do more and I wish Lucas the best. I know he has an awesome friend in you.”
I’ve gotten more mail like this than you can know.
Russ, Bianca, and the people who send five dollars aren’t going to change anything in a material sense. But they will change hearts. Compassion only comes in the large size. There are no small loves. There isn’t an act of kindness that is unnoticeable. None of this, not one cent, not one word, not one prayer, and not one smile will ever be forgotten. Ever. Never.
I am in debt. I am deeply in debt. No, as I have told you, this isn’t about money, no, not at all. This is about being given love and empathy and kindness and being held up emotionally by people who I never knew I had touched with my writing.
I owe now. And in some way, each and every day of my life, every moment and every chance to give back, even if it is not to these people, I will offer myself to those who I can help.
Ultimately, this is the One Great Truth in all of this; Compassion. Love. Humanity. You don’t need money. You need to care. You need a heart. You need to reach out and no matter how small it may seem from your end, from over here, where it is needed, it is mighty.
I am so very much going to write down everyone’s name who has helped me. And in some way, in the name of those people, I am going to spread the goodness forever.
Lucas is alive. So many people have made this possible and have made my state of mind in this time steady and true.
This is a debt I will spend the rest of my life repaying and nothing could make me happier.