For nearly all of the ten years that J and I have been together, he’s teased me about my habit of collecting strays.
That doesn’t make sense, those of you who know me might respond. You don’t have any pets.
Ah, yes. You’re right. But I wasn’t talking about stray animals.
I was talking about people.
In addition to the handful of people I mentioned yesterday, those I’ve forgotten over the years but who seem to remember me, in addition to those folks whose lives have briefly intersected with mine, there are plenty of people I haven’t forgotten. Plenty of people who don’t necessarily look like me or act like me or have similar histories to mine, but people who somehow, and I don’t know how, manage to stick around and follow me through the years. Or maybe I follow them. I don’t know.
But what I do know is that J teases me about this.
There you go again, he says, when I strike up a conversation with the grocery store clerk. Or the fellow next to me in the airplane.
How do you remember that? he asks me, when I pause to inquire about a random person’s ailment at church, the death of a beloved dog of one of our vendors at the farmer’s market, or when I drop a birthday card into the mail for a long-lost friend.
You and your strays, he sighs.
And then he gives me a hug, because he knows that compassion is important. People are important.
I could give more concrete examples of the “strays” I’ve collected over the years, but here’s the thing: stray people don’t know they’re strays!
They just know they’re loved.
And we could all handle giving and receiving a little bit more of that.