Do not commit the error, common among the young, of assuming if you cannot save the whole of [humankind] you have failed” (Jan de Hartog).

I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have, I can reflect light into the dark places of this world…and change some things in some people” (Alexander Papaderos, as told by Robert Fulghum in It Was On Fire When I Lay Down On It).

“You can do no great things; only small things, with great love” (Mother Teresa).

My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick. Hark, the cry of my poor people from far and wide in the land: “Is the Lord not in Zion? Is her King not in her?” (“Why have they provoked me to anger with their images, with their foreign idols?”) “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored?

O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people! O that I had in the desert a traveler’s lodging place, that I might leave my people and go away from them! For they are all adulterers, a band of traitors. They bend their tongues like bows; they have grown strong in the land for falsehood, and not for truth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know me, says the Lord (Jeremiah 8:18-9:3).


I think I know how Jeremiah must have felt. How can I not be sorrowful in these days? A soldier goes berserk and kills even small civilian children in Afghanistan. Meanness and intransigence dominate politics. A young woman’s reputation is trashed publicly by a famous/infamous talk show host. A Hispanic basketball player, an American citizen, is taunted with chants of “Where’s your green card?” by members of the University of Southern Mississippi band at a tournament, not only insulting that young man but perpetuating the stereotype of the South. A great many women speak of a “war on women” by politicians and pundits of a particular stripe. My own denomination is splitting yet again as the “Evangelical Covenant Order” attracts churches and maybe whole district councils to their brand of Presbyterian theology and practice.

There’s really little I can do about any of that. I depend on those with more power, influence, political and ecclesiastical savvy, and patience than I to address those huge, pressing, societal problems. I turn instead to trying to make a difference in the life of one little dog.

Susan and I were asked last week by our local Humane Society (www.ochsms .org) to foster a chihuahua mix named “Jenny” until she could be sent up north with Homeward Bound ( ) to meet her new family. We’ll have her until next Jennie lap dog 3-13-12Saturday morning. Not much time. But enough to provide some socialization and love in a home.

Jenny returns the love and care with her snuggling, licks, and sweetness. She and our dog Chloe have become friends. She even used Chloe’s back as a pillow last night!

Will fostering Jennie change the world? Will it wipe out the sorrow even that I feel, much less that of needy neighbors, oppressed and hated women and minorities, the marginalized and scorned? No. But it will make a difference for Jenny and help me feel that at least for a little while, I did something truly important.

Like in the old story of the man throwing starfish back into the sea, what Susan and I do “matters to this one.”

© 2012 Tom Cheatham. All rights reserved.