Learning from Sasha, the Dog

But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. Job 12:7-10

Next door to me lives a man with schizophrenia, who is mild-mannered and friendly when he is feeling well, but on other days can be heard shouting, “I will KILL God! God deserves to DIE!”

I guess he was fine until his late twenties – he had a fiance, and had made some money and bought a house, and then the mental illness came on and life fell apart. When he first moved in by me, ambulances frequently rushed to his house – he has poorly regulated diabetes too. Now he seems to have been able to hit a better phase of life – he’s had a few roommates over the years, but now lives by himself. He has a job at Kandu (the sheltered workshop in our area) and the Dial-A-Ride bus rolls down our block each day to pick him up and drop him off.

Everyday when he goes out to the bus, he walks backward, still facing his house, wildly waving at the window, shouting, “Sasha, you’ll be OK – I’ll be home soon! I’ll be back!” His little boston terrier is the focus of his life. Most of the time he is home, he walks her up and down the sidewalks of our neighborhood. Sometimes he curses at the dog too, but she seems unfazed by it. Sasha loves him to death.

What I find amazing is that God seems to have taught the animals something that we humans haven’t yet learned – long-term loyalty and simple, unjudgmental affection. A dog doesn’t care how you smell or look or act, and it won’t file for divorce or tell you it needs to date other owners. A dog just knows how to be faithful, and that’s all it knows.

I’ve gotten more sensitive to the brokenness of the world nowadays because I have more friends who are single moms and know more folks living together. The thing that pains me most is seeing children in that situation. Normal life is being shuttled back and forth between step families, eating every meal from the drive-thru, changing schools every time Mom or Dad moves in with a different person.

One Jewish writer pointed out that the word that we translate “orphan” in the Bible actually means “fatherless” – a child of a single-parent home. In biblical times, a family without a father was impoverished because there was no way for a woman to support herself and her children. But this writer points out that even though these times are better financially, we actually have an enormous number of “orphans” now – children of single parents, or even just brushed aside because of parents too pre-occupied with money or acheivement.

I find it shocking that a whole generation is growing up with no model of a stable home life. They have no expectation that they will marry someone and commit the rest of their lives to their spouse and family. Of course I have great sympathy for my friends who have gone through divorce and are single-moms – I drove a friend’s son to school even this morning. But it sad to see brand new young fathers who think that playing video games and partying is more important than their own children. They’ve never experienced it any other way.

James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” I never thought about how this applies to my single friends and their children, but now I see that God calls us to reach out to them as much as he has the widows and orphans of ages past.

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Published in: on April 19, 2007 at 7:24 am  Comments Off on Learning from Sasha, the Dog  
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