Over my formative childhood years, my family enjoyed an activity that is becoming rarer: the drive-in. I have vivid memories of packing a cooler full of Pepsi’s, Mountain Dews, and Dr. Peppers. We loaded down the car with snacks, blankets, and chairs. We hit the road with anticipation of the adventures that awaited us on the giant outdoor screens.
It was at the drive-in that worlds opened up. I can recall hearing Mufasa tell Simba, “Everything the light touches is our kingdom” for the first time in a drive-in. The dinosaurs of Jurassic Park both terrified and entranced me. The Titanic in all its splendor sank before my eyes. Austin Powers made me laugh. Seeing Tim Allen face off against a tarantula in Jungle 2 Jungle had me in giggling fits. My love of movies started at the drive-in.
Apparently, however, when it came to the drive-in our family had another tradition: we picked up strays. Well, at the very least, we picked up two.
Pringles, the potato crisp eating and wedding dress ruining cat. And Jake, the ugly, mangy cur: who looked strikingly like the dog Lucky from the Eddie Murphy Dr. Dolittle films.
Jake, with his crooked smile.
Jake, who would run over to the food bowl, take one bite, and run away in desperate fear.
Jake, who found his way into our hearts.
Our best guess was that Jake had been abused. By the time we got him, he was incredibly skittish, afraid of the simplest things. Even trying to pet Jake initially, made him recoil and shake. Jake was afraid. Jake needed his world to be okay.
He found us.
Our crazy, excitable family containing three boys around 9 – 12 years of age. That dog had no idea what he was in for. Silly, little Jake.
Looking back, I hadn’t known Jake’s story. I don’t know the past he had to endure. I don’t know why he was so broken, so scared. I didn’t know how to help him other to show him kindness, compassion, and love. We welcomed Jake into our family. Jake grew to love us, and we loved him.
Jake, the mangy cur became Jake, the family dog.
We live in a world full of “Jakes”. A world full of people, who have endured a lot: mentally, physically, emotionally, or spiritually. They are desperate in this world to find a sense of belonging, of hope.
They may be living in your very homes.
They may be your friends. Your sons. Your daughters. The elderly lady at the end of the street corner. The guy who drives the local bus. They are the homeless, the beggers. They are the people who need to be heard. The ones crying out. The ones remaining silent.
They are the ones walking down the hallway of a middle-school, feeling invisible. The ones eating alone at the lunch table.
If you see a “Jake”, please just do one thing. Be kind.
Smile at them. Acknowledge them. If it is within your power to help them, do it. Make a small-step and a big difference.
And for those of you reading this who feel like a “Jake”, please just know one thing… You are loved. You matter.
I know, because I was a “Jake” too.