Today was busy. I sent my husband to Costco with all three kids while I had a meeting in shul. Then we had lunch, made another shopping list, hit Walmart, did not find the items we were looking for, bought groceries, took 2 yo to two bathrooms which she nixed... the usual Sunday errand stuff. And I set up e-mail account for 8 yo. He was asking, I said that I will only allow it if I know his password and can check it periodically. He worked on sending out e-mails informing all that he has his own e-mail.
After all the shopping, I came home and collapsed. My husband was weeding outside, 2 yo was sleeping in the car, and I sent the boys out to water the tomatoes. Just as I was starting to doze, 8 yo came in to tell me about a baby squirrel they found outside, lying on the crack of the sidewalk. My first thought: "Dead?", but it was alive, but not well. The boys came in and out, informing me play-by-play how it would not run away from them, how my husband moved it to the backyard into crape myrtle, how it could not hold on to the tree, how it was sick and dying. 8 yo came back in with tears in his eyes. "We need to take it to the vet!" Well, we have no vet-worthy pets. It is Sunday afternoon. I dragged myself to the computer and started googling what one does with a sick squirrel in his backyard.
I found one website with a few numbers, called a few, got a few voicemails and disconnected numbers. Finally I reached a lady who told me that she does not rescue squirrels any more, but she told me that if it allowed itself to be carried, it is probably quite young. She also directed me to a website where one can find animal rescuers by state and county. I found a few more numbers and kept on calling. Finally, I reached an animal hospital that was open and would take in a squirrel as long as we brought it in before 7. By now, it was 5. We found a large suitable box, the squirrel was coaxed inside, the box was closed, and off we were, driving to a neighboring city to drop it off. The glow on boys' faces was incredible. I was just hoping that we will deliver an alive squirrel. 8 yo asked me to turn off music, so that the squirrel does not get extra stress.
Finally, we got there. There was one form to fill out, and I asked to be notified of the squirrel's future. They said that it is young and it probably did fall out of a tree. In the car on the way back, the squirrel was the topic of the conversation: whether it will need surgery, is it going to be OK, can we bring it home if it's better. then 8 y asked me why did Hashem punish the squirrel. I said that Hashem probably did not punish that squirrel, but that there are laws of nature which cause some animals to be OK and some to get sick. I also said that the squirrel was probably more of a test for us. The boys reconstructed all the decision points in the chain of events: whether to go out to water the plants, whether to pay any attention to a squirrel, whether to notice its strange behavior, whether to pester adults enough to move it to a different spot, whether to pester mommy enough to call animal rescue, whether to give up after the first few unsuccessful phone calls, whether to drive for an hour to drop it off. I told them that I think we did the right thing at the end.
The squirrel story ends here, but, as we were turning off the highway, I saw a homeless guy collecting. I do not like to give money, but I try to give out food: granola bars, water bottles, bagels, whatever we happened to have on hand, wrapped and non-perishable. I never had anyone refuse food. I also figured that you have to stoop quite low to be collecting like this, so it is not my job to figure out why are you collecting, it is my job to make your collecting a bit easier. What I observed this time was that after I reached out with food, two more cars rolled down their windows, honked, and gave him something.
Sometimes a leader is needed. Somebody has to be the first one, and then people will respond. While I hope that we won't have to rescue any more sick animals, I know that my kids will not pass one by. And I hope that they will not pass a homeless person by without reaching out in some way.