As we were trying to rearrange the garage years ago, I told my husband the cat-carrier should go to Goodwill since we no longer had a cat. My husband vetoed the idea saying one day we might have another cat. For a man who used to say he hated cats, my husband has owned (or been owned by) an incredible number of cats.
It all started with Smoky, a scrawny dark kitten I rescued from the clutches of a vicious tomcat. After I coaxed her inside, she accepted meat scraps and a bowl of milk, sat down, gave herself a bath and started to dominate the household. Like many cats, Smoky was independent. That is what cat-lovers call it; there are other words for it. She was incredibly finicky and went through numerous cat foods before choosing one to suit her palate. She could be picked up and loved only when she was in the mood. The children had the scratches to prove it. She hated the car, going to the vet, and shots. I had the scratches to prove it.
Smoky also didn’t like the kitty box. She told me so by kicking out the contents frequently—or leaving it entirely alone and finding alternatives. Then it was my job to find what she was using as a substitute. Whoever said cats never defile their beds didn’t know Smoky.
One day my eight-year-old son brought home another starving cat. After the traditional parent-child discussion about not feeding the world and money not growing on trees, I agreed to let him keep the nice kitty outside where it could eat the brands of cat food Smoky had rejected. So Chessie (short for Chesapeake because she looked like the gray tabby in railway ads) joined the family.
Chessie always greeted me joyfully, weaving herself around my ankles whenever I went out the door. She ate anything proffered, looking up gratefully and purring loudly even while chewing. She appreciated her warm bedding box and kept it clean. During her trips to the vet, Chessie curled up in my lap and purred coming and going. She even accepted the shots as something not understood but probably needed.
When we moved to a distant state, we could not take the cats with us. Chessie was adopted by the new owners of our house because they could see she was a good cat. But Smoky, whose manners made her unadoptable, became a mouser on a farm.
You’re probably asking: what does a story of two cats have to do with Thanksgiving? There are human counterparts to these two cats. Unfortunately, there seem to be more Smokys than Chessies. The ratio may be as high as 9-to-1.
Once as Jesus entered a village, ten lepers cried out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” He told them to show themselves to the priest to be pronounced clean. As they obeyed and went, they were healed. Only one, seeing his flesh totally free of leprosy, returned loudly praising God and fell down at Jesus’ feet to thank Him. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?” (Luke 17:17 NIV)
Today the same question could be asked. Where are the nine? Or the 90 or the 900…? If an attitude of gratitude is an index of spiritual health, it appears that many prefer to remain sick. They display the attitude of the caustic cat of the comics, Garfield, who looking out a window commented on all the people going to work to produce food, electricity, and kitty litter: “All just for me. I’d thank them individually, but they know who they are.”
Do you verbalize your gratitude to people and to God? Or, like Garfield, do you take it for granted that they know? It takes time and effort to show gratitude. The leper had to walk a lot farther than those who did not turn around and return. But he gained more than they would ever know.
Elizabeth Elliott wrote, “It is always possible to be thankful for what is given rather than to complain about what is not given. One or the other becomes a habit of life.” What is your habit of life? Do you have an attitude of gratitude or an independent cat-itude? Are you a Chessie or a Smoky?
This Thanksgiving you may be thinking about turkeys, but I’ll be thinking about cats. I’ll be asking the Lord to help me be more like Chessie–to show my gratitude by my actions. To appreciate what He gives and not turn up my nose, wanting something else. And to accept even the painful things that are not understood but probably needed.
I guess what I’m asking is that He’ll teach me to purr.
Vicki Huffman’s Christian non-fiction book, The Best of Times, in which she uses many examples from the familiar to make a spiritual point, is now available on Kindle at amazon.com for only $2.99. The first chapter of her Christian novel, A Secret Hope, may be read free in the gift shop here.