In the Season of Giving, a Special Gift

At this time of year many of us give something extra to charities and go another step to help the less fortunate, especially during a time when so many face hardship.

For all the problems of our world, and the things that are ugly and discouraging, there are still shining stars, people who reach out and do amazing things just from the goodness of their hearts. Recently I had a personal experience with giving that I want to share.

The mother of Nancy, a longtime friend of mine, had kidney failure. She was placed on dialysis, but what she desperately needed was a transplant. No one in the family was a match. So the word went out within her church community. A woman who had worked with my friend’s mother on church committees over the years volunteered to undergo donor testing, and turned out to be a match.

We all give money or a few hours of time or donate items, but how many can say they would undergo major surgery and give an organ? It is a lifesaving act of incredible charity and courage.

My friend’s mother was at the hospital where I take my Therapy Dog, Gordon, so I offered to drop by and visit during our normal Sunday rounds. “No, my Mom can’t have visitors yet,’’ Nancy said. “But the donor loves dogs and would enjoy meeting Gordon.’’

That Sunday morning we went straight to the room to greet this woman, whom I will call Jane.  As I entered the room carrying Gordon he caught sight of Jane on the bed and reacted right away, squirming to go say hello.

This was no stranger.

In the Season of Giving, a Special GiftJane walks her two Labs on the same walking path near my house where I take my dogs, and we have encountered each other countless times over the years. I have to confess, we didn’t know each other’s names. To her, I was the guy with the terriers. To me, she was the lady who had two Labs but also lots of different dogs, often training them. Sometimes she would ask me to stop and walk my terriers back and forth to help her teach a Stay command. Just two people who shared a love for dogs.

As we chatted I learned that Jane selects dogs from local shelters and brings them into local juvenile-detention facilities where she runs a 10- to 12-week training program with the juvenile offenders and the dogs. The dogs are crate and potty trained while learning all their basic obedience commands. The juvenile offenders learn important life skills while getting the dogs ready for adoption to the public.

Jane was rescuing dogs, then troubled children, and now here she was, saving the life of a friend.

In this picture taken by my friend Nancy, Gordon is on the donor’s bed, snuggling, and Jane’s hand is reaching out to give him some love. We can all reach out this season to those we love, and maybe even to those who just need a hand.

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