Darla fixes up strays, like me. I was catching up on Facebook this morning when a saw a post from a long-time friend. Several weeks ago, Darla was Facebooking (is that a verb, now?) about a stray cat that had shown up at her house and she was trying to find its family. Darla took the stray in, fed her, cared for her and continued to look for her family. When it became evident that the family wasn’t coming forward, Darla set out to find the cat a new “forever family.” Her post this morning read: “Our stray Kitty was fixed and goes to her forever family today! She is going to be one spoiled girl. My husband liked her so much he wanted to trade her for my crazy gray cat in this photo. Tempting…but kind of attached to this alien creature. I found a new family for her. She will have two golden retriever dogs to stalk and tease!”
I had to smile because I remembered when I was one of Darla’s strays. Darla is a cat lover. She’s a dog lover too. Most importantly, Darla is a people lover. The thing about my friend, though, is that she never lets a stray know that it is a stray. Any unfortunate creature lucky enough to fall under Darla’s watchful, rescuing eye is made to believe that it is one of the most elite beings on the planet. Darla fixes us up, builds our self-esteem, finds us a place where we can be happy, and then keeps track of us, even when we move 1,600 miles away.
It was about a decade ago when Darla was assigned to help my son, Jack, at school. Jack has Down syndrome, and had some special education benefits when we lived in Michigan. Darla was soon the one who was teaching Jack the most and she was also his best friend. My wife, Amy, was very involved with Jack’s education so she met Darla first. We were fairly new to the Owosso area and Darla picked up on one small thing that Amy had said about us not having done well at making friends in our new community. Darla set out to make a difference. We were invited into the Dunn’s home again and again. We were introduced to the friends of the Dunn family, and marketed to them as some of the best people in the world. We were invited to attend church services with her family and did so on a couple of special occasions. We were warmly received by members of that congregation when we attended, but we really had no interest in changing congregations (it’s a long story). When we didn’t “hook up” with a new congregation, we were still received well and included by the friends that we made at Darla’s church. Darla and her family established us in a community and made us feel like we were of value. I’ll never forget that.
And today, I knew how a stray cat felt. She feels like she is of value. She feels like she was always of value. She feels like she is royalty and always deserved to be royalty. That silly stray cat feels like her new family is lucky to have her. And because of what Darla did for that abandoned animal, that cat will bring untold joy to her new forever family and all who meet her.
When I grow up, I want to be like Darla.