I thank my God every time I remember you… (Philippians 1:3).

I am a part of all that I have met… (Ulysses, Alfred Lord Tennyson).

Tomorrow we say goodbye to Jennie, the long-legged chihuahua mix we have fostered for the past two weeks. We’ll put her on a Homeward Bound truck at the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine, and she’ll be on her way to a new life in New York. The ASPCA up there will soon have an adoption event, and we’re sure she will find a family who will love and care for her, receiving in return the abundant love and affection this little pup has to give.

We’ve had Jennie for only a short time, but we will remember her fondly and miss her. I think our dachshund Chloe will miss her, too, since Jennie was such a great playmate, though Chloe will also be glad we belong exclusively to her again.

The experience with Jennie reminded me that there are also people that come into our lives for only awhile, but they remain with us. Sometimes we wish they would go away, like the rude driver who cut us off or the apathetic clerk at the store; the frustrated, angry mother screaming at her kid while she also blocks the grocery aisle with her buggy; or the telemarketer who phones at suppertime.

But other times the encounters are welcome and all too brief. We wish we could’ve lingered and savored the conversation with someone we see by surprise when we are out running errands or soaked up a bit more of the smile from a friendly store clerk who greeted us warmly and was helpful on a rushed day. We have a friend for a few years, then life takes us in different directions, and we lose touch. We see people at church or on a board or in a club meeting once a week or less, and the relationships seldom move beyond superficial conversations about business or the weather or maybe music and sports, but we long to talk about what truly touches us in our hearts. Loved ones are taken from us all too soon, and there is so much more we would have liked to have said and done.

God in his providence brings vulnerable and loving creatures like Jennie into our lives, and they are gifts. He also provides the encounters with people of all sorts, for a shorter or longer time, and they too may be gifts. Time and life will teach us what God intended in giving them.

© 2012 Tom Cheatham. All rights reserved.