I took my daughter’s dog, Travis, for a walk this morning.
He is a puggle, born in Texas (where he was adopted) and now living in New England. I don’t know if he prefers the warm weather of his birthplace, but he has short fur, so in the winter we dress him in sweaters, parkas, and, when it snows, boots — mainly because the salt that the highway department uses to treat the roads irritates his paws.
We laugh because his facial expression looks like he is embarassed to be wearing clothing at all, as if he is afraid of what the other, bigger, heartier dogs might think.
It had snowed a lot in the last two days, around 20 inches in all. So, on our walk, as we approached two woman who were shoveling the end of their driveway, one of them exclaimed, “Oh, look at the booties!” Rather than just smile and nod as I passed by, I felt compelled to explain what the “the booties” were for, as if to spare Travis (or me) any further ridicule.
It reminded me of how self-concious I was when I got my first pair of glasses (for nearsightedness) at age ten. I did not want to wear them in public, at least not around people I knew, and have this new thing about me call attention to myself. Besides, glasses were worn by nerds or dorks (or so I thought), and I did not want to look like one of those. I would only wear my glasses in the house, for watching television. Not at school, to help me see the chalkboard, and not for playing Little League baseball, to keep me from striking out so much. I must have driven my parents crazy. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school, when I got wire rims, that I started wearing my glasses all the time. Wire rims were cool.
Last Sunday’s Gospel contains one of my favorite scripture passages: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) In this reading “Jesus begins to instruct the disciples about how to be his followers,” explains John Foley, SJ. “He says: be what you are. This is consoling advice. You get to be yourself! He gives images. If you are like salt, then don’t lose your flavor. If you are a lamp then don’t put a basket over yourself so no one can see your light.”
And, if you have to wear glasses to see, through no fault of your own, then don’t leave them in their case.
Catholic monk and author Thomas Merton, in his book New Seeds of Contemplation, wrote:
“Humility consists in being precisely the person you actually are before God, and since no two people are alike, if you have the humility to be yourself you will not be like anyone else in the whole universe.
“It is not humility to insist on being someone that you are not. It is as much as saying that you know better than God who you are and who you ought to be. How do you expect to arrive at the end of your own journey if you take the road to another man’s city? How do you expect to reach your own perfection by leading someone else’s life?”
Well, I guess the person I am is someone who, come what may, wants his granddog to be warm on winter walks, with no discomfort from stepping on treated roadways.
But it’s normal to appreciate a little affirmation too.
After passing the two show-shovelers, Travis and I came upon a man snowblowing his driveway. He waved and shouted over the sound of the engine, “Nice shoes!” I smiled and gave him a thumbs-up, to which he replied, “Yeah, the salt tears up the dogs’ paws, so good job!”