The heart-expansion project

You know that part in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” where the Grinch’s heart, which is originally two sizes too small, grows three sizes, and everything changes? That happened to our hearts this weekend.

Our hearts didn’t seem small to us before–they were your normal, average-sized vessels. But now that we’ve brought home four baby goats, our hearts feel much bigger than they were and that has changed our lives. My son Adrian quickly decided that he didn’t want to go to school anymore, and although I find it challenging to write with a baby goat asleep on my lap, I’d rather type slowly and inefficiently than forgo the experience. We are virtually incapacitated by our love for these little animals.

Adrian with Pandora, Rhea, and Pan

That has me thinking. Isn’t it in everyone’s best interest to increase our capacity for love? Won’t the compassion my son gains from this experience enable him to engage more compassionately with all living things? Won’t his ability to intuit these babies’ unspoken needs make him more sensitive to the needs of others? Won’t his willingness to take responsibility for their physical well-being make him more willing to engage in the work that makes any relationship thrive?

My hunch is that the answer to all of these questions is, “Yes.” As Adrian’s mother and “childhood designer,” I sometimes imagine who I want Adrian to be when he grows up, and then reverse-engineer experiences that I think will lead to that result. Our little farm is one of those experiences.

Loving (platonic)

Kris Wiltse’s illustrations for the “Loving” card from the Mixed Emotions card deck.

House cats as role models

When our cats give me a sleepy-eyed squint as I pass them throughout the day, I think, “I want to be just like you.” They are so happy. So content. They have such utter faith that their needs will be met, and unlike dogs, they don’t seem to think they have to do anything to earn that.

Me? I’m a dog. A therapist once told me, “You seem to think you need to earn your keep in the universe.” She was right. I don’t know where it comes from. Want me to fetch the ball? OK. Want me to sit? I’m on it. Want me to roll over? Play dead? No problem. Just love me!

Our cats, on the other hand, fully expect us to please and love them. And the funny thing is, we do.

There is much about the religion that I was raised in that I no longer embrace, but the following quote, which is attributed to Jesus, still has me thinking:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Matthew 6:25-34

This is apparently the creed that my cats live by. It works for them. Could it work for me?

Curious Trusting

Kris Wiltse’s illustrations for the “Curious” and “Trusting” cards from the Mixed Emotions card deck.