Everyone in the apartment complex where I lived knew who Ugly was.
Ugly was the resident tomcat. Ugly loved three things in this world: a warm place to sleep, free food, and attention. I wasn't at home much, but when I saw Ugly I left a bowl of milk for him.
He was called Ugly because he had only one eye and where the other should have been was a hole. He was also missing his ear on the same side, his left foot appeared to have been badly broken at one time, and had healed at an unnatural angle, making him look like he was always turning the corner.
Ugly would have been an orange tabby but the outdoor life seemed to always leave dirt covering his head, neck and even his shoulders. Every time someone saw Ugly there was the same reaction. "That's one UGLY cat!!!"
All the children were warned not to touch him, the adults threw rocks to make him move on, hosed him down, and when he tried to come in their homes they would shut the door.
Ugly always had the same reaction. If you turned the hose on him, he would look at you surprised, then scamper just out of range, and look at you as if he knew it must have been an accident.
Whenever he spied children, he would come running, meowing frantically and bump his head against their hands, begging for their love. If you picked him up he would immediately begin suckling on your shirt, earrings, whatever he could find.
One day Ugly went into a backyard with dogs who did not respond kindly. Ugly was badly mauled. I heard the fight and rushed to his aid. By the time I got to where he was laying, it was apparent Ugly's sad life was almost at an end. As I picked him up and tried to carry him home, I could hear him wheezing and gasping, and could feel him struggling. It must be hurting him terribly, I thought.
Then I felt a familiar tugging, sucking sensation on my ear.
Ugly, in so much pain, suffering and obviously dying, was trying to suckle my ear. I pulled him closer to me, and he bumped the palm of my hand with his head, then he turned one golden eye towards me, and I could hear the distinct sound of purring.
Even in the greatest pain, that ugly battled scarred cat was asking only for a little affection, perhaps some compassion. At that moment I thought Ugly was the most beautiful, loving creature I had ever seen. Never once did he try to bite or scratch me, try to get away from me, or struggle in any way. Ugly just looked up at me completely trusting in me to relieve his pain.
Ugly died in my arms before I could get inside, but I sat and held him for a long time afterwards, thinking about how one scarred, deformed little stray could so alter my opinion about what it means to have true pureness of spirit, to love so totally and truly.
Ugly taught me more about giving and compassion than a thousand books, lectures, or talk show specials ever could, and for that I will always be thankful . He had been scarred on the outside, but I was scarred on the inside, and it was time for me to move on and learn to love truly and deeply. To give my total to those I cared for. Many people want to be richer, more successful, well liked, beautiful, but for me.......
I will always try to be Ugly.