Practical Issues > Things to do > Religion and Animals

On Helping, and "Dandelions Like Me"

I would also add that in my view, all of life bears within it the breath of God (we are all animals) and that purchasing any living being comes uncomfortably close to slavery.

That said, I look forward to some future time in society when even the animal shelters won't be necessary anymore.

Someone on another listserv posted an article a year or so ago about a shelter in Puerto Rico that was sending dogs to a New York shelter, because the one in New York had room for more. I had mixed feeling about it. I guess on the positive side, the feeling was that the dogs might have more luck finding homes here. But I wondered if the imported dogs would cause the original dogs to move down a notch for any hope of being adopted. And on the most negative side, (other than transporting issues) when I read the article, I worried that even shelters who do a good and necessary thing for animals could end up becoming their own sort of self-perpetuating institution. I remember a talk at AR2002 by a lady from the Austin(?) zoo -- a place that is more of a refuge for "retired" zoo animals. She said their ultimate goal is to be able to go out of business someday.

On a really off-the-wall topic ("the Gospel according to Sue"), I'd like to share some things that came up during our "meditative" Eucharist on Sunday, when I was on retreat. The Gospel was read from "The Message". So I don't know how closely it corresponds to the NSRV that you would have heard. But after the reading we were invited to reflect on that, or anything else from the weekend -- or share poems, drawings, etc. that might express something meaningful to us.

In "The Message" version of the parable, an "enemy" planted the thistle seeds among the wheat. But interesting to my hearing of the first verse, for the first time, was that both were planted in the Kingdom of God. I was thinking that I like thistles and a lot of other weeds as I heard it. (And I wondered if God has a preference between weeds or chemical weedkiller.) Afterwards, one of the ladies mentioned that thistles attract butterflies. And another mentioned that the weeds where she lives are sometimes planted by "people with good intentions" (meaning as an act, and not as the kind of thought out of which the "streets of Hell are paved"). She mentioned that someone planted some mustard in their veggie garden and it ended up reseeding and proliferating into the category of being noxious weeds. And she mentioned that the seeds that fall from their birdfeeder sprout weeds in the yard. I thought the whole concepts of weeds being planted by people who act with good intentions offered such a wide menu of food for thought in so many areas of life -- whether it pertains to how we try to help animals, our relationships with other people, approaches taken by people with a cause, or even in the various aspects of ministry, evangelism, outreach, etc. (As just one example, last year, the guy who lead the retreat had rescued some baby chimney swifts that fell into the fireplace in the center's library, and had made a nest for them in a tree just outside, and fed them regularly. At the end of the weekend, his daughter brought them to the local wildlife rehabilitator, who I'm not naming this time, and was chastised for not leaving the babies where they found them! We all thought he was doing such a good thing, expecting that if the mother bird would even try to rescue them, she might end up trapped somewhere in the building.

As another example, I was up righting some pretty metallic green & copper beetles that were stranded on their backs at work today. I think they are Japanese beetles.... OK, I'll admit I have no theological clue.

But what I got out of the other part of the parable where the workers were told to leave the weeds growing with the wheat until the harvest, didn't strike me as having the usual meaning we hear about in sermons. Where I'm living, I'm purposely waiting to let things grow, to find out what they are. And if they're a "cool weeds", I'll transplant them somewhere where they can have their own space, safe from the lawn mower -- where they might pass for wildflowers and add something interesting to the landscape. I also mystified my co-workers when I uprooted some "cool weeds" at work to transplant in my garden! Pretty little things whose flowers follow the sun.

What I've found with many of the "weeds" I've planted on other people's turf with relatively good intentions is that in time things get "sorted out" in a good way. I didn't come away this weekend with that "punishment" idea that people usually get, when they think of the ultimate fate of the weeds at harvest time (or whatever or whoever the weeds are supposed to represent), but an opportunity for something else, like growth of some kind that we won't recognize until "the fullness of time".

I talk too much. But hey, that seemed like Good News for "dandelions like me".

Vigeat Radix! ("May the root thrive.")


"As you dream, God's mercy rains upon the seeds of your heart."  -- adapted by Lucinda Alwa