Most of us have heard about Noah and the ark. But do you know what Noah spent most of his time doing while on board? He was rushing around, taking care of and feeding the thousands of animals he saved from the flood. Although the work was hard and the responsibly was great, it also helped Noah feel a greater love for the creatures he was taking care of. So too, when we take the responsibility to care for those who need us, we grow into more loving people.
In our story, a kid discovers that what he thought was a chore was really a chance to love.
Jeremy jumped up and down in excitement when his dad agreed to let him have a puppy for his birthday.
"Wow, thanks so much, Dad!" he cried out when the furry, long-legged Labrador pup he'd already decided to name Charcoal, arrived from the pet store. He was more fun than a toy and felt like a warm, furry pillow when he hugged it in his arms.
After that long, first day of romping and cuddling, Jeremy yawned and started to drag his tired legs to his bedroom.
"Wait a minute," his dad said to him. "Did you feed Charcoal yet and set up a sleeping basket for him?"
"Huh?" Jeremy blinked, his eyes feeling like shutters ready to close. "I'm real tired. Can't you do it, Dad?"
"No sir," his father shook his head. "He's your dog and you have to take care of him. And don't forget to spread newspapers on the floor all around the den. He's not trained yet and we don't want to wake to a big mess tomorrow."
Jeremy did as his father asked him, though he couldn't help thinking about how much easier it felt to just fling his toys into the chest than to do all this.
The next morning, despite all Jeremy's newspaper spreading, Charcoal had managed to find the one uncovered space on the floor to make a puddle. Oh no. My father is going to be real annoyed about cleaning this up, Jeremy thought to himself. But his father wasn't mad at all, because he told Jeremy that since it was his dog, the responsibility was his.
The next few days felt to Jeremy like one endless marathon of puppy care - feeding, bathing, walking and yes, cleaning up after him. Wow, this is one needy pup! he thought as glared at the dog and wondered whether maybe he should have gone for the electric scooter as a birthday present instead.
It wasn't easy, but little by little, Jeremy started to get used to the routine. Then he even began to like it. He just loved the thump-thump of Charcoal's thin, pointy tail banging on the floor whenever he saw him coming. He loved watching the puppy get bigger and knowing it was the food he'd been giving him that helped him grow. And most of all he liked teaching Charcoal how to bark next to the front door when he needed to use the bathroom - for both of their sakes.
"Jeremy, we're going out today so remember to leave..."
"Leave Charcoal extra food and water? Don't worry, Dad, I already did. And I also made sure to leave the heat on in his room - it's supposed to be ice-chilly out today."
"You really learned to take good care of him, didn't you?"
Jeremy nodded his head. "Yeah, and you know, the more I do for him, the more I love him better than any toy. Hey, is that the way you feel about me and Deb?"
His father's lips curved into a big smile that said more than a thousand yes's.
Q. How did Jeremy feel at first about having to take care of his new puppy?
A. He didn't like to do it and it made him feel mad at the dog.
Q. How did he feel at the end?
A. All the things he did for his dog made him care about and love it more.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Jeremy learned in this story?
A. At first he resented all the work he had to do to take care of his dog, but after a while he realized that it was precisely all that giving that made him feel close to his pet. Being responsible for and giving to other - be it pets or people - is what helps us love them.
Q. Why do you think that is?
A. When we give and do for others, we give them a little part of ourselves and create a bond with them. So it's only natural that we will come to care about them more.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. How do you think having more responsibility to take care of others relates to coming closer to God?
A. The way to come closer to God is to act toward others as He does to us. Since God has responsibility for and takes care of everyone and everything, when we imitate Him by taking care of others - a pet, siblings, children or students - we come closer to God.
Q. Who do you think a person will come to love more: one he gives to or one who gives to him? Why?
A. At first glance, the obvious answer seems like 'the one who gives to us.' After all, he's giving us something. But the deeper reality is that giving - not taking - is what creates the bonds of love and the more we give, the stronger the love will be.