Furry Little Life Lesson
I didn't know what I didn't know, until he arrived.
It was my sixteenth birthday.
Like many other teens, I wasn’t always the greatest person to be around – too much angst and drama, and a serious lack of consideration and patience. On that day I was in the living room when my dad came home. He told me that his coworker had found me a birthday present, and that the box was in his car.
Instead of being excited, I reluctantly said thank you and got up from what I was doing to go outside. I am mortified to say that I recall being annoyed, of all things, and thinking that this was probably a gift for which my parents would make me write a thank-you note. I’ll be the first to admit that I sounded like a spoiled brat.
I walked outside and down to the car, and saw a large cardboard box in the front seat. Still hesitant, I opened the door. And just like that, it was as if that moment of my life became a scene playing from a movie. The sun shone behind me as I opened the top of the box, and a ray of light beamed down on a tiny orange kitten sleeping in the corner. When the sunlight abruptly hit him, he stretched his skinny front paws and let out a huge yawn that enveloped his entire face, before opening his tiny eyes and looking up at me.
I remember being speechless, gaping down at this adorable kitten who had instantly melted my heart. I remember feeling ashamed that I had been so ungrateful – resentful, even – when I didn’t know what was in the box. But that wasn’t it – I had been ungrateful for the box itself. Someone had gone to the trouble to give me something, and I didn’t care. That tiny kitten was my wake-up call.
Gingerly I lifted him into my arms, and cradled him while he purred against my chest. “Percy,” I whispered, “We’re going to be friends.”
From then on he was a part of me – a mewing, energetic, furry reminder that life is unexpected and one never knows what’s going to be inside the box. When I was sad, he would curl up next to me on the bed. When I needed a laugh, he’d chase the strings I dangled and play-attack my feet under the covers (always an adorable, hilarious pastime).
They say cats are jerks – maybe that’s true for some, but not Percy. He was as personable and happy-go-lucky as a pet could be, always delighted to see me, always rubbing against my legs and staring up at me with wide eyes, mewing to be given affection.
The worst thing he ever did was knock a terrifyingly tall stack of books off the desk when he walked over them, and even then he just stared at them in a chaotic pile on the floor, as if he didn’t understand how what had happened was his fault.
I never told my parents that I had been thinking such ungrateful thoughts before Percy arrived, but from then on I made a conscious effort to be aware of the things that people did for me that I hadn’t taken into account before. At sixteen, I wasn’t perfect – and am obviously still far from it – but at least at the time I was able to acknowledge my shame and learn from it.
People help people all the time, and sometimes we don’t even notice. Percy was my furry little reminder that those two little words – thank you – can make a huge difference.
To this day that box and its contents were one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. Not just because I love animals and tiny kittens are a joy to behold, but because I learned a lesson in gratitude.
And yes, I did write a thank-you note.
I owe it to Percy and his charming, furry, unexpected personality for teaching me that valuable lesson. No matter what’s inside, be grateful for the box.