These are weird, weird times. That’s not news. In fact, it’s such a deeply engrained fact by now that I’m not sure that we’d recognize normal times if a day from, say, the 80s or 90s jumped out the calendar and bopped us on the head with a VCR.
Between covid and antisemitism from the right and the left and inflation and winter — not the lovely white-snow part, just the cold gray bits — and the pure tedium of working from home, things seems pretty grim.
So where do we find hope?
There are some obvious places. It’s light a little longer every day. Shabbat starts and ends a bit later every week. As improbable as it seems, spring is coming.
As we see just in the pages of this newspaper, as unlikely as it might be, people who were not born Jewish still want to join us. They did in the 18th century, as Dr. Laura Leibman writes in her book and will tell us in her talk, for Rutgers’ Bildner Center. They’re doing it now in Africa, as the story about conversions in Nigeria make clear. And then of course there is the vibrancy of the right-here, right-now community that surrounds us.
I have been led to think about hope through something inherently hopeless, the death of my dearly deeply beloved dog.
There are similarities between children and dogs — as the grown-up, you’re entirely in charge, and you get to make all the decisions. You give them love, and they love you back.
There are, however, many differences too. You don’t have to tell children why you make your decisions, but you should. On the other hand, you can’t explain your thoughts to your dog, because your dog doesn’t speak English, and I am sure that you don’t speak Bark.
The love we give our children is unconditional but complicated. There are no such complications when it comes to dogs.
Children grow up, separate, and appropriate and properly leave for lives of their own. Of course they stay deeply connected, and they come back often, but you are no longer responsible for them. That’s not true for dogs.
And when dogs die, we can replace them. It’s not disloyalty, it doesn’t make massive doses of hormones, and it puts new sources of love in our lives. And who can’t use more love?
All this is to say that I discovered a brand new world, the world of dog and cat rescues. Those are small organizations, usually just a few people; they take dogs and cats from shelters, fix their medical problems, help resocialize them, foster them, and then place them with people who promise to take care of them. They operate on love and hope.
It’s a fairly simple, straightforward way to do good in the world. It’s nothing big, not flashy, not hugely important. Just simple goodness.
I wrote about dog rescues in July 16, 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic, when people were starting to realize how much they wanted the simple joy of a dog in their locked-down lives. In that story, “Maybe now’s the time to get a dog,” I profiled Lyn Ofrane, who left her successful career as a photographer to volunteer as a dog-matcher extraordinaire. I called her, and now my husband and I know firsthand how good it is to work with someone who can help you navigate the formidable shoals of Pet Finder. Next, we met Rhoda Glass, who matches people with dogs, and as far as I can tell she gets it right.
So in the end, I know that there is hope. There is more and more light. There are dogs. There are cats. They need homes. There is love.
I hope that each of our readers will find your own best canine or feline friend, and bring more love into the world.