Rescue Journal

Ok in the world and in myself

Alison  ·  Aug. 21, 2006

I didn't sleep well last night, and today I am tired. My back is sore, my brain feels like it has been left out in the rain , even my eyes are scratchy and feel too big for my head. This could be Sheila's fault ( it might have nothing to do with the fact that I skipped the sleep thing again yesterday), I kept thinking about how she was feeling all night long. Her "what is wrong with us?" and "why can't we just be normal?" feelings are familiar to anyone who works in rescue. Self doubt, lack of validation, a real fear of insanity and an emotional, deep down exhaustion each morning when facing the same as the day before, with no end in sigh,t becomes our norm. Last night, I tried to talk her out of those feelings, knowing that those are not feelings you can talk away, they are always hanging out around the corner to trip us up and bring us down, then they sit on us, like a dense and giant rotti, til we make them get off.

There are animals that just cannot survive in the "real" world. Wee Hopeful Bug was like that, and so were Sheila's Butch and Scotty. Ollie might be like that too. And those animals are the hardest to live with each and every day. Thank god Oliver is not a SAINTS dog because i don't have to share the burden of guilt for his being there. He's their own damn fault for actually looking at him in the first place and seeing his need. The only real answer for this one, is to stop doing rescue. We could kill ourselves just as easily fighting global warming, or third world starvation or halting the spread of AIDS. And, people would respect and value us alot more while we were at it. So why don't we? I don't know. All I know is every single day that I lived with Hope, I wished that she would just go away. One day she did, and now I am sad.

I think we are like everyone else, (at least anyone else with a passion, a mission that motivates them to give someting back in some way that fits) we feel the same things deep down inside us, we just feel them because of different things. I don't see anything wrong with that. If we all felt exactly the same about the exact same things, we might halt the spread of AIDS but the children would still die of hunger. Wee Hopeful Bug would never have found a heart to mourn her loss. Maybe Hopey wasn't as important to the rest of the world as she was to me, but to me, Hope is the heart of SAINTS, and for the animals that come here, her being that important to me was a real good thing. I refuse to believe that any one act of goodness or kindness has more value than a different act of another. If I believed otherwise, I would do something else. Maybe, some day I will,...but not yet. Right now, there is a floor to bleach and a stall to clean and I promised Miss Mellie a donut. And I am sending a cyber hug to anyone out there who is having a bad day making the world a little bit better for someone, no matter how small and insignificant that someone is.



Burnout, which often results from an emotional, deep down exhaustion from doing a job with lack of validation, and which involves self doubt and a real fear of insanity (as Carol worded it), is true of so many jobs ( both paid and volunteer) where there is an endless parade of incoming desperate "clients" and little or no apparent easing of the conditions that make their situation - and the situation of others like them - desperate.

Whether we are talking about human poverty, mid-east crises, or animal care, the social conditions that lead humans and animals to desperation will not end until a significant proportion of the population changes its thinking and its actions in relation to those issues. Therein lies the rub - can we change the world?

Probably not. But if we educate even one child, one family, one community and in doing so cause just a few people to rethink their position, then we have still done something meaningful and useful. I know Carol and Leila and Sheila and all the volunteers at Saints not only truly care for and help the animals coming into our care, but also try to educate whenever a teachable moment occurs.

I was reminded of this "one person at a time" approach just the other week when a former student of mine - from TWENTY years ago - contacted me for a copy of a game about social inequality which I'd developed for use in my classroom. It had such an impact on her that twenty years later she is wanting to share that game with a group of future teachers she is currently working with. In twenty years, I've taught about 5,000 students. Knowing I've made a difference to just one student..who will make a difference to one more....who will make a difference to yet me the energy to keep going.

It's like that with the animals we care for...yes there is a continual need, and that need is both exhausting and depressing. But if we think of any one of the animals for whom we made a difference, or notice any one person who is rethinking their position on animal care, then we know that what we do does have value and does have a long-term impact no matter how futile our actions feel at the time. That's what keeps me going in my work with students and what keeps me going in my work with Saints.

And, as Carol notes, we can't all put our energy and passion into the same issues - to do so would be to take energy and passion away from another equally important, equally valid issue. So we focus on our passion (even within any one area of need - one has to learn what to expend one's energy on and when to just let go) and we give all that we can to address those needs, and we have faith that others will be equally passionate about addressing other needs and other issues.

And the worlds of Oliver and Francis and Luke and Potato Ed are so much better because we do care. Even when we don't sleep at night and have grit in our eyes.