The following is printed by permission from Peggy Hentz, Director of Red Creek Wildlife Center. Please visit their site to meet this wonderful place that cares for wild creatures.
A few years ago I was asked to do spiritual children’s messages with animals. I had a few stories in my pocket and I had said, I have a lot of different animals but I’m not sure how many stories I could come up with relating the animals to God.
He told me that I was a CREATION TEACHER” and said, “If I all you do is bring an animal, hold it up, and say, “this is a creation of God, it is special” then you have witnessed about God.”
And that’s what I want to tell you about. I’d like to get you to look at one creature and see it’s specialness.
In my priorities writing I talked about the specialness of creation, and about not allowing the work and entertainment of the world to distract us from nurturing the living, feeling creations in our lives, the people and animals and from our relationship with the Creator. In that letter though, I forgot one person, and this was quite fitting, because it is the one person most neglected by most loving/caring people. It’s the living, feeling valuable creature you see when you look in the mirror.
Neglecting your self is the easiest most common thing we all do. And there are a lot of reasons. First, the very nature of kindness is looking outward, helping others, sacrificing one’s self. Second is we get mixed messages from the world. On one hand we are told, “to thine own self be true”, “look out for number one”, on the other hand we are told to serve others.
And how many people REALLY know how to nurture themselves. Do you? Not physically but emotionally and spiritually nurture yourself.
Also, any time we sit and focus on ourselves, we worried about being selfish and self-centered.
There are so many SELF-words: SELF-RELIANCE, SELF-CONFIDENCE, SELF-ESTEEM, SELF-RESPECT. These are all different things and we tend to group them together, but the one self word that covers it all is SELF WORTH.
If this weren’t such a wide spread problem there wouldn’t be 2 walls of self-help books at Waldon’s bookstore. Most of the time spent in counseling is focused on the self. AA, Alanon, ACOA (adult children of alcoholics), Turning point, Women in crisis. These organizations, though they cater to certain life situations, basically work on self worth.
I have spent years working on my own self worth. I have had so much advice and so many suggestions given to me, and I’ve tried most of them.
I was told to “work through the bad and negative things in my past, deal with it and put it aside. This helped me learn self-understanding.
I was told to get to know and protect my inner child. This taught me self-reliance.
I was told to pamper myself physically, to reward myself, and spend time alone. I was told to practice saying “NO” to people. I should practice these things. But that was working from the outside in. Although I learned to act like a self-nurturing person, it never changed my feelings inside.
The summer my Mother died, I spent the first month dealing with the details and legalities of her passing. Services, wills, lawyers, family. Cleaning out her apartment was a major task. All this and trying to keep the wildlife center and the business running.
I realized I never took time for myself. Mother and I had a complex, trying relationship, but I was her primary caretaker and we were very close. A great deal of my time was spent sharing time with her and caring for her. Her death was going to bring a big change to my life and I hadn’t even taken time to mourn her.
In September, I took 5 days off and went backpacking alone with my Doberman, Einstein. So, Einstein and I hit the Appalachian Trail, my goal, to come to terms with mom’s death. Well, how do you go about doing such a thing?
The first day I walked thinking, concentrate on mom, think of mom, deal with mom. It almost became a chant. Well, this wasn’t going to do it.
So I sat several times and wrote lists in a notebook. I listed feelings and events and wrote about all the issues I had already dealt with so many times.
Then a question came to mind. One of those thoughts that you just know, didn’t come from you. What gifts did mom give me? Not the physical things but the gifts from with-in-side herself.
It started slowly with the things she taught me, like how to handle money, keep a budget, cooking. But as I sat, I couldn’t write fast enough. The list went on and on and on. And I realized something. Everything good that was inside of her, everything that was important to her, she had given me. These were gifts. Her shortcomings didn’t matter anymore. Within the limits of her abilities, she gave me everything she had.
And I was thankful.
And something special happened. I felt valuable, and special and very loved.
I began thinking about the other gifts I had received from other people. The lessons taught, the examples given and just the time spent with me.
And I was thankful.
I thought about the gifts the Creator had given me, the talents and opportunities, health and teaching.
And I was thankful.
After all my work of trying to heal my heart from the outside in, the Creator had healed it from the inside out. It was through thankfulness that I had found my self worth.
If we practice thankfulness, we will begin to live a thankful life. A life of thankfulness becomes a joyful life. A life of thankfulness becomes a life lived in prayer. A LIVING PRAYER. And I can not see how that kind of life could breed selfishness and self-centeredness.
I saw a message once on a child’s T-shirt. I’m special; cause God doesn’t make junk. If you don’t believe that you or your life is special and unique, it’s only because what is familiar, is often not seen. We become blind to the things that are there all the time. OPEN YOUR EYES OR ASK SOMEONE.
I do it all the time. I even become complacent about things in my life, and my life is extremely eccentric. And if you ask and of my volunteers, they will probably use more descriptive words. Who else do you know that goes to sleep listening to the hoots of an owl, coming from inside the house?
When I first opened the wildlife center, every animal that came through my doors was handled with awe. I’d open a box, peek inside and exclaimed, “oh a blue jay” or “oh a red tailed hawk” or “oh a possum”. After a while, it would be, ah, another red tail.
I realized one day how complacent I had actually become, when I had this 17-year old girl start volunteering for me. She was so excited and she wanted to give a good impression. Her very first day working with the animals, she came dressed really nice. Dress slacks and a nice blouse and brand new sneakers. I thought, “well, I guess I can get her to do some paper work”. I was showing her a program in the computer when someone arrived with a blue heron that had been hit by a car.
Now Herons are large birds, standing 3 feet high, with legs as long as their neck as long as their beak. The have deadly aim and can take an eye out. This is not the bird for one person to handle. I had to get this girl to help. She was holding the bird while I was treating it, and suddenly, it threw up on her……. And not just a little bit…….And they eat fish.
I never expected to see this volunteer again. A couple days later I saw her mother in the grocery store and she said, “Michelle was so excited. She said, where else can you get close enough to a heron that it could throw up on you?”
Familiarity breed blindness.
So, today I hold up before you, a being …………created by god. Take a really good, objective look at it. See it’s talents, gifts and achievements. See it’s shortcomings and faults. See it in it’s completeness. All of it’s humanness.
It is special. It is unique.
And be thankful.
For God so loved the world, He gave it YOU
Because God don’t make junk.