“If I could talk to the animals...”
I wonder whether we fully appreciate the role of animals in maintaining folks’ mental health. Pets are central to this. The companionship of a dog or cat, or the fascination of the endless travels around the aquarium of the fishes, the hamster busy making his nest in his cage, or the parrot trying to learn to talk, or...?
Then there are the wild animals you might observe and find entertaining. This is family time for many at the moment. So now I can look out of the window and see from time to time:
Baby rabbits nervously introducing themselves to the world
Squirrels flitting around in the trees
Birds making their nests
Bats swooping about in the dusk catching insects.
The very occasional fox
Stretching the term “animals” I can see butterflies, bumble bees, wasps and spiders busy at work.
What can we learn from these various creatures? Well, all of them show resilience and a “can do” attitude. Whatever the circumstances, they will try to keep going. All of them are alert to the present moment – which is another way of saying they practise mindfulness. All of them teach us the importance of family life and the role of good parenting (except perhaps the cuckoo, who gives over responsibilities to someone else). Dogs teach us faithfulness and patience. They are quick to forgive and inclined to see the best in us. Cats teach us humility through the way they aren’t really bothered about who their owners are, or think they are. Birds teach us resourcefulness in the way they use different materials to build their nests and in the way they find safe places for those nests. Squirrels teach us the importance of saving and storing – but also the folly of being greedy in that they can’t always find all the nuts they have “squirrelled” away. Rabbits teach us to be observant.
What about cows and sheep and pigs and chickens, etc? They are like domestic pets in that they demand attention and so teach us to be responsible towards others. And like domestic pets they reward us for our efforts so richly in their various ways: affection from pets, food from livestock. In fact, we are encouraged to do what we see animals/creatures for the most part doing in nature. They thereby teach us this lesson from scripture: But this I say: He who soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly, and he who soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. (2 Corinthians 9:6)