With Thanksgiving, Christmas, and a brand new year upon us, many of us may be drudging up old grievances, dreading holiday parties, stressing about getting everything done, and fretting about whom are what we do not have in our life. Last year, my parents welcomed a rescue dog into their home (his name is Ignatius—see I really do love the Jesuits!). Prior to having Iggy, we had a bichon frise named Buddy for twelve years. When trying to think of something inspirational to write for this time of year, I started to realize that maybe the best example for how we should act around the holidays may be found in our best non-human friends.
- He enthusiastically welcomes EVERYONE who comes to the door.
The dog does not care how old you are, your skin color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or political persuasion. He acts like you are the best thing since sliced bread when you walk in the door.
- He does not ask for much, but he never approaches you empty-handed.
The dog really does not ask for much. He does not want anything that might break your bank account or want you to search a million stores for a hot item. Yet, he always comes to the door offering you his favorite chew toy.
- What he does want is your time and your love.
The dog sees YOU for YOU, not for your wealth or your prestigious title. He just wants a pat on the head and a nice belly rub, or maybe to sit on your lap. (And, yes, some leftovers from your big feast would be great, too.) In short, just YOU as YOU ARE is good enough.
- He does not ask inappropriate or offensive questions.
The dog will never ask you why you are single, or why you have lost or gained too much weight, or why you would be “crazy enough” to vote for a certain political candidate. However, he would be happy to sit on your lap and listen to whatever you do want to get off your chest.
- He does not live in the past. He lives and appreciates the present moment.
The dog does not hold grudges. He does not care if you failed to show up last Thanksgiving, if you have not always been the kindest [daughter, son, parent, friend, sibling], or if you accidentally stepped on his paw when coming in the door. He is ready to forgive and accept you back into his life with open arms.
- He does not ask for perfection.
The dog is not going to be upset if you could not find a certain gift at the mall, if the house is not perfectly clean, the turkey got a bit overdone, or you spilled something on your shirt. Dogs remind us that we need to sometimes be a bit easier on ourselves.
- He sees the world as extraordinary.
The dog goes for a walk in the same park every day, yet he sniffs around excitedly like he has never seen it before. When I return from a 90-minute run, he jumps up and welcomes me like he has not seen me in ages. He sees that the world is beautiful, and appreciates the everyday things we take for granted—the presence of our loved ones or the grandeur of the trees and the flowers.
- He knows the real meaning of the Christmas season.
The dog does not care if you serve his food in just a plain red bowl. He perks up when someone greets him with “Merry Christmas!” but he also loves to hear a cheerful “Happy Hanukkah.” He is not so much concerned with the religion you profess with your words, but the religion you profess with your deeds. The dog knows that what is important is that you feed him, provide for his basic needs, tend to him when he is sick or frightened, and show him some love and affection—the things we should all be doing for others this time of year.
When I look at my dog, I see a way to be more like Jesus. Jesus welcomed the people whom society shunned into his life with open arms. He had love and compassion for all people—tax collectors, prostitutes, Roman centurions… There was really no limit to his ministry. Jesus saw people with the eyes of God. If we did the same, we would be able see more deeply into those around us—that they are more than just their past deeds, their occupation, their religious or political beliefs, how much money they spend on us, etc. And seeing people with the eyes of God—well, that is how we keep Christ at our table all throughout the year.
God works through God’s creatures to teach us important lessons. And GOD backwards—what does it spell? Yes, exactly. Happy Thanksgiving and Blessed Advent!