This is a case where the story starts with a cat stuck high in a huge cedar tree and ends with a story about the homeless at MacDonald’s.
My neighbor had only just moved in across the street when one of her two young cats went missing. Finally, two days later as she was walking the alley, she heard its cry, a forelorn “meow, meow” from a big cedar tree that edged the alley some 25 feet above. Reaching it with a standard ladder was out of the question. Fortunately, a crew from a tree care company was working on the big oak tree next door to my house. I explained my neighbor’s plight to one of the young, sympathetic tree pruners who agreed to see what he could do. Soon he arrived at the scene, assessed the situation and donned his climbing gear. Just before he started climbing, I tucked twenty dollar bill in his shirt pocket. My neighbor saw me and asked how much I’d given him. I told her and at that point I departed for a meeting which I was already late for. Consequently, I only heard what happened later. The young tree climber had done his heroic part, coaxing the cat into his arms but the minute he got down from the tree, the cat had escaped and disappeared once more. Ultimately, though, the story has a happy ending. Three days later the young cat, given up for lost, suddenly appeared at my neighbor’s front door, hungry and eager to get inside.
The second part of the story begins with my friend’s invitation to gather with her and several other mutual acquaintances for a day of meditation and discussion of the place of financial abundance in spiritual practice.The morning’s session centered on the claasic, The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace Wattles, the afternoon’s session on the concept of “Flow-through Stewardship”. At the end of the second session we were each given a twenty dollar bill to spend in a way that expressed the value of money less as personal investment and more as a form of energy moving through us to create the good life for all. We were urged to keep alert for an opportunity to express our stewardship sooner rather than later.
Just when I had all but forgotten the twenty dollars packed away in my wallet, two events occurred in rapid order. First of all, my neighbor whose cat was rescued from the big cedar tree many weeks before, stopped by my house on anotherr matter but at that point handed me a twenty dollar bill. She had remembered. I had all but forgotten. So now I had two twenty dollar bills burning a hole in my pocket.
The final part of the story occurred at the end of an evening class at church where some of us were gathered with the pastor to study the meaning of the advent season. Before disbanding, one of the participants happened to mention that he wasn’t going to get to a nearby town tonight to help his homeless friends because he didn’t have any money for gas. Right away I saw it. My antenna was up. I said “Yes you do. You have the money”. “No, no”, he said, “I don’t take money from my friends”. “Look,” I said. “I’ve got 40 dollars, none of it really mine”, and then I told my story. Under these circumstsnces he was happy to receive the money. The next time I saw him, he told me his story. He got the gas that night after class and made his way to his homeless friends arming them with five dollar food tickets he had purchased at MacDonald’s. He knew about homelessness for he himself, until recently, had been homeless. He also knew the importance of warmth and food and someone who cares. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the money, a perfect opportunity very much in keeping with the Christmas spirit. I went away from our conversation the happiest of men.
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