Four hugs, two handshakes and three “God Bless You’s”.

This is the measure of a good day when volunteering for something you love so much.  This will carry me. This will bring Thanksgiving back into perspective. I have spent the last several days focused on Thanksgiving. What will I cook, how will I cook it and will I be strong, and will I make the right choices? These are all consuming thoughts only derailed by thoughts of  self pity with the realization of who will be absent from my holiday celebrations again this year leaving a huge emptiness in my world no matter how I try to move forward.

Just like a teacher who jerks you back into your school bus seat when you wiggled you way out to talk with your friend three rows back, I felt like someone jerked me back into the reality of what I should be thankful for this coming week and every week. When I worked with a local pet food pantry distributing food today the stinging truth was echoed over and over in the people whose paths crossed mine as I walked with them to deliver the food to their transport vehicle.  This might have been their car, or a neighbor’s car who graciously brought them, or a group of people who carpool together to get to the pantry. I was reminded that for so many simply getting here is no easy task. They love their animals and make sacrifices to do what is best for them. There are those who I know by name, who come at me with arms wide open each month  and those whose gratitude is expressed simply in a  meeting of the eyes with a timid “God bless you” as we walk our separate ways. It’s more than enough to make a huge impact on my life.

If you open yourself up to others, they will share with you the stories of their lives. These stories are gifts, but only if you let them be, so many times I think it’s easier to keep the walls up, shrug it off and not let anything penetrate the safety of the protective bubble we  can cloak ourselves in.  As I walked with a woman in the crisp morning air she shared with me that there had been several foreclosures on her street, three that she spoke of specifically and all three families left their pets behind and how she could not stand to see any animal suffer, that she would gladly do without in order to feed her pets. She informed me that our pets are part of the family and you do not leave family behind. I could not agree more! Luckily because of the pet food pantry she gets assistance in providing for them and her burden is eased. This is the story for so, so many families that get assistance each month and I have heard it over and over from people in tears knowing without the food the receive their world would be without the unconditional love of their pets.  We stood standing by her vehicle which had seen better days, a patchwork of creative fixes to the rusted shell of what she said was her lifeline. “She isn’t pretty but she still runs good”, she said laughing as she fiddled to coax the trunk to release so we could load up the bounty she had received for her dogs.

Ignoring the chill of the wind that whipped through us she continued sharing , she spoke of  the love she had for her own dogs and how she stretched the monthly allocation of food with cooked oatmeal.  She lost her “good” job last year and currently works two part time jobs to try to make it. She also helps raise her granddaughter, and lit up at mentioning her. She said to me that shame is not an option, and she has to do what needs to be done so that everyone can have food in their bellies, the dogs are no exception. Shame, that word haunts so many including me, we need to rid it from the world. If there is one thing I am most proud of in my work with the Pet Food Pantry is that everyone is treated with dignity and respect and miraculously shame never enters into the picture. In the end we all love our pets and that is enough.  As I turned to head back to pick up another order she thanked me and said “God Bless You”….and without thinking at all, my guard down, my heart hanging out I turned around and gave her a big hug and with tears that I simply could not hold back I thanked her. She is now forever a part of my life because I see the world just a little bit differently now through her eyes.

It is easy for me to get caught up in my life, in my weight struggles, my daily struggles and forget that I have so much, and so much to be thankful for….today I am most thankful for Four Hugs, two handshakes and three God Bless You’s.

Please consider giving to your local pet food pantry.




  1. Bobbie says:

    This is a beautiful post — thank you for sharing it.

  2. Veronica says:

    Your hugs are the best in Cincinnati, I can personally attest to that. You are so right, open yourself up and allow yourself to be subjected to failure, disappointment, and frustration. You will also be opening yourself up to the wonderful grace of God in everyday situation. It amazes me how a simple act of kindness will impact a person so deeply. I have to believe we can still be kind to one another in the midst of this crazy world, your journey is a testiment to perservering over the amazing cruelty we subject each other too but is also testifies to the love, grace, trust and faith we are all capable of. Love you LOTS and keep up the wonderful work!

    • dogl2324 says:

      I am hoping I get a chance to give you a big ol hug soon! You know I have to say something to you. I remember a time when I was a very scared kid who was doing an internship at ths local theater and someone (YOU) were one of the few people who really made me feel like my weight did not matter. I was much larger then and you did not hesitate to show me kindness and compassion, so you should know that I am able to give it back because I received it from you. Thank you for following along on this journey and for loving me through it.

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