Dear Hope Has a Cold Nose subscribers.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead
A few evenings ago, I had the privilege of speaking at a library in partnership with a special friend. Our message was on the healing power of therapy and service dogs. I should rephrase to say that it was in tri-partnership, for my friend also brought the star of our center stage, Sunny, her four-year old therapy dog. As Sunny worked, visiting those in attendance, my friend shared the multitude of ways Sunny has helped those who journey with trauma. I shared a story from Hope Has a Cold Nose, highlighting how one particular service dog has provided healing, dignity, and hope to a veteran on his journey with PTSD.
I had not been to this library before, my interactions limited to an initial conversation on the phone when an invitation was extended to come and speak. Immediately upon entering the doors, I was struck by one key word that best described what I was walking into. Community. This library is not only a holder of books; it is facilitated by a heart of passion for learning, encouragement and celebration for local artists and creative souls, and a haven of safe space for people to enter with their stories of their lives that can be kept quiet between the person and the pages of another story of fiction, history, or autobiography. Into the doors one walks and immediately finds belonging.
During the speaking engagement, I facilitated an interactive exercise in which I asked one person in the audience to share a personal story, while I asked the others to listen. Once the story was shared, I asked for volunteers to share what they heard. Of course, true to our human nature in how we listen, those that shared each had a different perspective. One person shared the details, including a piece of information not communicated to all of us. The power of community, shared history, and belonging. Pieces of this story not shared were still known by those who had walked beside this individual supporting her through her grief, and her healing.
Recently I had the sacred honor of listening to veteran’s story in which she shared how two dear friends noticed when she did not show up for classes a couple of days in a row, and immediately came to this veteran’s home to check on her. These two friends found her in the clutches of depression gripping her will to get out of bed. Though only a small group of two, they quickly assembled more to be a “community” of support for this veteran. They stayed by her side literally, and figuratively. And they have not let go. For this veteran, two individuals changed her world.
When my special friend and I co-deliver our message of the power of therapy and service dogs as healers, we highlight the unconditional listening of a dog, and how a dog can hear exactly what someone is feeling without words spoken. In that way that we become student when we also teach, I am reminded of an image of a man and his dog I saw recently on the lawn at the driveway entrance and exit of a large multi-purpose store. My heart whispered words I didn’t need to hear to know there is a story and it is one of pain. My heart felt gratitude this dear individual had hope by his side in the form of fur and a cold nose. And my heart was saddened for that this dear individual was not being seen, nor his voice being heard when I was certain his story was extraordinary.
I was reminded of another dear individual and his dog I met on the streets of New York City several years ago. I had set the intention I would find this dear individual and his dog, or at least a team similar, for a couple years prior to this encounter, I had been one in the “community” of those passing by who did not pause. I was reminded of these words I had written in sharing the story with someone: Instead, I acted as those were next to me, the same as those to the left and right of these two souls passing by without second glances to these two souls staring wishfully back at people passing by. They were listening for respect and empathy; we were listening to the warmth, safety, and abundance of our lives. My intention was next time I would notice, and I would stop.
Fast forward to now. How many dear individuals wish to belong to a community of compassion, respect, dignity, and unconditional listening? Maybe those beside us aren’t homeless, but how many beside us where we walk, or drive, feel they aren’t being heard? Or seen? I can’t help feeling part of that answer is being communicated to us through the statistic of twenty-two per day.
The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.
Eighteen stories are complete and or in process for the manuscript of Hope Has a Cold Nose. The goal is to have twenty-two stories. Feel free to share this email and encourage others to subscribe to updates regarding the progress of Hope Has a Cold Nose to its published state by visiting either link below. If you know of someone that would like to share their story for Hope Has a Cold Nose, please have them contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.