An Ugly Dog, The Perfect Gift, and a Perfect Day

John Wooden said there’s no perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.

Most of us do this without knowing. We do it with tax money, charity giving — both best done without grousing. A scowl over a gift renders the gift a mute. Runs joy off with a meat cleaver.

But how many of you thought instantly of money at seeing Wooden’s idea? Easy, isn’t it, to assume the word repay must come with a wallet attached?

In my father’s lifetime, I saw often what a conversation could do. My dad could talk about anything with anyone, often in a language anyone could grasp. Yes, that means what you think it means. He could make his presence a gift. A Divine one. I miss it even now.

Ever make someone laugh without intending? Ever see the laughing Buddha? Think Jesus didn’t laugh? Think God has no sense of humor? Look at a donkey. Watch an otter pick a fight. I need merely see my dad get mad at a lawn mower, again, in my mind’s eye.

What brings another human being comfort, a moment’s joy, an unexpected cackle — these don’t get repaid. Or do they? The receiver need not pay it back. The payoff comes by some ethereal way. No need to believe in magic to feel magic.

My parents once parented the ugliest dog in canine history. A chihuahua crossed with a pekingese, a mating surely blessed in hell. A neighbor said she looked like a Dr. Suess medical experiment. She was ugly, malodorous and loud. She carried the halitosis of a lion and the charm of a badger. But she was loved. And even she could love in a way no human could repay. She made my father howl. My mother deemed her adorable. Blessed woman of the Lord. In their home she did for them what all their love could never quite repay. When she died, we all grieved. I was married and long gone by then. I still grieve her. I do.

We needn’t be beautiful to matter. To perfect someone’s day. We needn’t. even smell just right. We need merely be. Human beings, not human doings.

Our being a gift, no one can repay.

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