Editor’s note: This column by the late Bev Davis was originally published March 26, 2010. Davis passed away Aug. 1, 2010, of a sudden illness.
Sunday afternoon a neighbor called and asked if I had a cat missing. I didn’t. She told me a cat was roosting in the top of a tall tree near my house and had been up there several days.
Animal lovers at heart, we gathered at the bottom of the tree and tried everything we knew to coax the hapless kitty down. No luck. It yowled at the top of its lungs, but never made a move in our direction. The tree was too tall for anyone to climb, although some neighborhood teens volunteered. Their mothers wouldn’t let them.
We left food, and my neighbors left a box trap. Next day, no kitty on the ground. My neighbor told me the cat had come down as far as the split from the main trunk but had scurried back to a height close to that of a two-story building.
Huddled there and clinging to a small, thin limb, it continued to squall pitifully. I gave up the second day, but my neighbors are die-hard rescuers. They spent a couple of hours in a cold, miserable rain going to extreme lengths to get the kitty earthbound. They anchored a limb with a rope and sawed off the tree split and pulled the top of the tree to a higher level on the bank. At long last, the kitty’s paws landed on soft leaves. It took all of about 2 seconds for the cat to dash away from all the loving souls trying to help it and, yep, it climbed right back up another tree.
“Stupidity is its own reward,” I decided when my neighbor called and told me the details of the rescue. “That cat deserves to die.”
I’ve thought about it all week, though. I’m guessing it was fear that kept the cat trapped in its misery. Through cold rains it clung to its perch and rejected every gesture of help. I’m afraid of heights, so I could relate to that strange paralysis that forced the cat to look down and see how perilously high it had climbed.
Whether days without food and water had left it disoriented or whether fear kept the cat from accepting the love, food, shelter and safety below, I’ll never know.
I do know it’s made me more aware of people around me who are emotionally isolated by some kind of trauma. People have been driven into fear and anger and hurt by all kinds of things. Sexual abuse, betrayal by a loved one, physical illness or pain, years of dysfunctional relationships, substance abuse — the list of predators is endless.
I’m convinced I don’t go far enough to try to help them. I wonder if I’m reluctant to offer assistance because deep down I believe some of those people are in their plight because they deserve to be. Shame on me if that’s the case. I’ve also been convicted that I often help to a degree, then fall short of going the extreme distance like my neighbors did. They were on a mission. They were committed to getting the cat down. They weren’t concerned about whether the kitty deserved to be rescued. They cared enough to make every effort to save it. I hoped it would come down. I prayed for it. I made a few efforts to coax it down, but I didn’t go the distance.
It’s all made me take to heart an Amish proverb I learned years ago. “It is not our duty to see through people. It is our duty to see people through.” I need to work on hanging in there with some folks for the long haul. I don’t have to see their motives. I definitely don’t need to judge them. I need to stay focused on their needs and do as much as I can to help set them free from a place of false refuge.
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