I learned about giving in the slow human way. Because my mother was a skilled seamstress, I was a well-dressed child. It may have been guilt or it may have had something to do with “the joy of giving” that prompted me to deliver several of my most stylish dresses to a less fortunate little girl, who lived with disabled parents. After thanking me gratefully, the little girl offered me the only party dress in her closet. Puzzled, I tried to refuse, but my mother guided me. She complimented the girl and told her how happy I would be to wear the dress. I came away knowing a little bit more about human pride and who gives what to whom. My greatest gift to the girl was acceptance of the gift she offered me.
Many years later, I stood by helplessly as our small rabbit Ashley lay dying. The antibiotics no longer worked. Suddenly she noticed a scratch on the shoulder of her friend Lillian. With a last burst of energy she raised her head and began to frantically clean Lillian’s sore. Her mission must be accomplished! With more strength than she had summoned in several weeks, she compulsively tended to Lillian’s comfort. Lillian’s last gift to her dying friend was to receive. Lillian was there to accept Ashley’s fond and fervent cleaning.
Several times since then, I have witnessed the same phenomenon. Dying rabbits take care of the attending rabbits, who give by allowing themselves to be cared for. I’m astounded to see animals show such pride, dignity, and a sense of when to give and when to receive.
We–intelligent sophisticated beings that we are–have to learn these things. Our animal friends already know them on their own.
©Copyright Marinell Harriman. All Rights Reserved. Republished with the permission of the author.
Giving Is Receiving was originally published in House Rabbit Journal Volume III, Number 6, December 1995