the church of the animal lover


Most times, when one enters any sort of consumer center, be it a mall, a grocery store, or large specialty chain, personal interaction seems limited. Of course, there are the greaters and sales persons. one may here ‘welcome to Walmart’ or “may I assist you?” or ‘please let me know if we can help you with your purchases.’  Yet rarely in our highly individualized society do we stop and talk to everyone else shopping. After all, we have Facebook, twitter, Instagram, and whatever else to keep us company.  We almost fear human contact, we really fear intimacy.  We walk around thinking maybe subconsciously, If I interact with this person, they may require something of me. They might ask me for money. They may burden my time. They may need me to hear their sad story.

We are too busy for any of that, and often times too selfish, or too afraid to meet with another. God forbid we have to share anything.

And, you may be shaking your head right now, saying, “No way.” rationalizing your busyness. or my busyness. or our lack of interaction.

our lack of community.

And while the internet is a great place for sharing ideas, and sharing feelings, I wonder if it really meets our need for human interaction.

And I wonder if we are all too scared of intimacy. Church should be a place where vulnerability, intimacy, and sharing can be felt. Church should be a place where community happens.

interaction happens.

where we share.

we can share needs.

we can share burdens.

and we can share each other’s time.

Yet, our culture and the world systems of individualism, materialism, consumerism have crept into our churches. Many of them. and it can be difficult to find community in these places.

well, what does all this have to do with animal lovers?

I entered into Pet Smart today with Basil, and Terry. I was at first shocked at all the crap one could purchase for an animal. I got a bit cynical, thinking of all the hungry children in the world, and how much we spend on dog food. And I was going to buy dog food there, too. so shame on me, too, right? me and my slavery footprint included. anyhoo,

But something weird happened.

No cell phones out.

Just people and their dogs.

everywhere.

every aisle.

and no one was a snob. no one was too busy to talk.

It was like every person was sharing something.

their love for animals.

we met one woman who told us her grief over losing a pet. The interaction lasted like five minutes. I wasn’t in a hurry. I noticed my body posture relaxing, and really desiring to hear her. She shared her story with us. She looked like she could cry. Middle aged, graceful, sweet.

The next couple told us about Boxers. The young couple seemed to be a bit influenced by rap culture and country music. The Young man spoke with a lisp, and his smile betrayed his silver teeth.  He was white skinned, but dirty, wore his basketball shoes loose, and his pants under his butt cheeks.  Some classicists would not offer him the time of day, because of his “over the tracks” look.  Some racists either. But I noticed that all the fences seemed down. Ladies of high Chapel Hill status, republicans with big SUV’s, and rich upper middle class blacks all gathered round him as he talked about his boxer. And there I was, all psuedo-educated with a cursory knowledge of pop culture, and a fake street cred.  We shared something.

The next interaction was with a little old white lady. she just talked and talked.

We shared our burdens. Our hopes. our laughs. And it got uncomfortable, because it was all so unplugged, so real, and so very much like community.

Terry and I made it out of Pet Smart spending  under $20.00.

And as we walked to the car holding Basil, I said “did we just leave church?”

Terry said “Yeah- Church of the Animal Lover.”

I wonder if more of my interactions could be like that?

How bout you?

And I have struggled with my own fear of intimacy. busyness. vulnerability.

How bout you?

 

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2 thoughts on “the church of the animal lover

  1. Yup. Or that famous Church of the Foodie: Trader Joe’s. As I work stocking shelves, culling produce, pulling in carts from the snow-packed parking lot, or cashiering, I see it all. I see the elderly gentleman taking advice about how to choose the perfect avocado from a 20-something crew member with a large nose ring. I see an impromptu gathering of customers and crew of all ages, sexual orientations, and ethnicities discussing pairings for perfect party appetizers.

    But also, I watch the crew gather around a young woman struggling to contain her two young cage-free pre-school boys while shopping. Our resident Leprechaun drops what he was doing to entertain the boys with his thick Irish accent and story-telling prowess. Another offers to help her find items on her list. And another asks her what her favorite color is, and then offers her a bouquet of pink flowers in the checkout line — a gift from the crew — because we can do that whenever we feel led.

    What I watch is love. What I watch is God at work right smack dab in the middle of the mundane.

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