On Monday, my daughter was driving home from our camp and found a kitten on the side of the road. A tiny kitten. An injured kitten, one leg splayed off at an oh-so-wrong angle. A scared kitten.
She called to ask for advice, and I told her to go to all the nearby houses to see if it belonged to anyone, and if not, to bring it here.
Mind you, I have five cats. Mind you, I can’t afford another one. But still, it was the right thing to do.
She brought it home and I made some calls, and was advised to take it to the Humane Society, where most likely, it would be euthanized.
It was a very young black kitten, long-haired, with a face like a cute little bat. I almost took a picture, but then decided not to. I tried not to look at its sweet little face as we drove to the shelter. I tried to think about how we were doing what was best for everyone involved, I tried to think that maybe they would fix it, save it, put it up for adoption.
In truth, I don’t know what they ended up doing. And, in truth, I don’t want to know. I want to leave the possibility open that it survived. In truth, I wish I had taken it to the vet and paid a giant bill that I can’t afford and brought it home to become one step crazier on the crazy cat lady scale.
Oh, I know, I did the best I could. But I can’t stop thinking about that little face, so vulnerable, so sweet, so small. I can’t help wishing I had been able to save one more tiny kitten, or for that matter, the world.
Yesterday, I came across this quote by May Sarton: “The hardest thing we are asked to do in this world is to remain aware of suffering, suffering about which we can do nothing.”
Of course, I know this is about far more than tiny kittens. So much of the world needs saving. So much of the world cannot be saved.
But why is it that doing what seems like the right thing feels oh-so-wrong?
How is it that the person that actually hit the cat was able to just keep on going, and I can’t stop thinking about the poor little thing? I can’t stop seeing that little bat face.
Perhaps it is simply too much a reminder of the fragility of life. Perhaps I am projecting some inner sense of vulnerability. Or the kitten was just a dark, fuzzy metaphor for all the things I want to save in this world, but cannot. Perhaps I just have a soft spot for kittens.
Or, perhaps, I am just plain crazy.
Either way, sometimes the world is a cold, hard place. More than likely, I should leave the word sometimes out of that sentence.
I have to put that knowledge in my back pocket for a while and walk around with it.
I don’t know what else to do with it just yet.
From the book by Gabriel García Márquez