Finding Common Ground
The quote “We are not so different, you and I,” or a slight variation thereof, is used so frequently in film, I believe it is only surpassed by “I can explain.” Despite its overuse and subsequent spoofing in movies such as “Austin Powers,” it is one of my favorite themes in literary, visual and performing art. I love the idea that even polar opposites share some sort of mutual understanding.
To facilitate commutuality, my father’s advice when I was young was to be well-rounded so that I could converse with a variety of people about a variety of things. This is sage advice, but I think I’ve found a short cut. What if I told you that short cut is worn well with paw prints? Pets can be a great source of connection between people from all walks of life.
I make fast friends with lots of people and not because I know at least three clean jokes. All I need to do is mention that I work for the SPCA and whoever I’m with is chatting away about pets they have loved and lost, which favorite pair of pumps was eaten by the puppy, or how “FNULNU” got her name.
I rarely have any silent time at all, let alone awkward silence. Not with the grocery store clerk, not with the folks at Rotary Club, not even with the mammographer, which is really saying something. Most everyone likes pets and has at least a few questions to ask or stories to share. And oh! Those stories ….
I could tell stories from the SPCA that would make the creators of peopleofwalmart.com blush.
I could tell stories from the SPCA that would bring the writers at Hallmark to tears.
I could tell stories from the SPCA that would have you LOL-ing, ROFL-ing and LYBO.
I could tell stories from the SPCA that would inspire you, encourage you, and give you hope without ever having to visit the self-help section of a bookstore.
These stories are created every day at the SPCA and they aren’t specific to our shelter. I was in a meeting with the good folks at the Aiken County Shelter not long ago and remarked to myself that the goings on at their shelter were much the same.
During my short visit, parents and children, employees and job searchers, donors and recipients of their generosity, prisoners, police officers, and even a prosecutor’s wife were in one place at one time, all getting along between wags and purrs.
Those that work in animal welfare see it all, sometimes in a single day. Pets are the ties that bind. Pets are chick magnets and door openers, ice breakers, and, best of all, they are common threads even between the most opposite people.
There are angels who write checks for the dogs in amounts that far exceed what any SPCA employee will earn this year, and there are those who are feeding their own Meals on Wheels to their cat.
There are veterinary professionals who have the healing touch, and there are hard-working people who sometimes cannot afford their care.
There are people who “love the breed” and perpetuate it, and there are those who are forced to euthanize the breed because there are too many.
There are those who fight for the ones who can’t defend themselves, and those who force the defenseless to fight each other.
There are those who have experience, expertise, doctorates and certifications, and there are those who can barely write their own name.
There are those who cannot bear to look, and those who cannot turn away.
Maybe as different as people seem on the outside, we are all just one slobbery kiss away from empathy. And if we remember that, maybe we can focus not so much on the differences that separate us, but the commonalities that bring us together. Perhaps we can see individuals, not as isolated points in space, but as points on a continuum, and that continuum a common thread which links us all together.
Think what we could achieve in animal welfare, in anything for that matter, if we could concentrate on the things that bring us together, not drive us apart. And as well-rounded as I am (Thanks, Pop!), I have never found anything that more people have in common than pets.
Chrissey Miller, CAWA
SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare