Saturday evening I was out in my garden. As often happens, Charlie the cat inserted himself between me and my plants with a need for attention. I gave in to his demands for petting and ran my hand down his left side. With a snarl, he turned and bit me, just barely breaking the skin. He bit me! It was totally unexpected. Charlie is an old cat and not given to playful wrestling. Something was seriously up. After attacking me, he lay where he had fallen in my garden bed, claws extended, mouth open in a snarl. I walked away to bind up my wounds.
Sunday evening, I ran across someone at church wearing full body armor. I could find no cracks. When I tried to discuss some scheduling she informed me that anyone could work with the current calendar if they had sufficient desire, that participating was a choice that might take some sacrifice but could be done. No surrender, no quarter. Take it or leave it. Leaving it seemed like a pretty good choice in light of the hostility being displayed, but I saw no need to stir up any more defensiveness by saying so. I let it go, thinking it would be easier to work with the other parties involved.
Monday morning, back in the garden, along came Charlie the cat. I said, "I'm not petting you. You bite!" and continued with what I was doing. Not offended at all, Charlie rubbed his head against my elbow. When I ignored him, he moved a little closer and kept rubbing against me. I put my hand toward him and he rubbed against my fingers. I went ahead and petted the part of him that he offered to me. Rather than biting, he purred.
I think there's a lesson here. Apparently, Charlie has a sore spot on his side. If I touch it, he communicates his pain to me by causing me pain. If I play a more passive role, he will let me know what parts are all right to touch. I wonder . . . how can I apply that lesson as I interact with the wounded people around me?