Traditionally, I’m a cynic. My natural inclination leads me to assume the worst, especially when it comes to people.
You’d think that this cynicism would be on full display when I discovered somebody was trapping cats in our neighborhood and dumping them out in the middle of nowhere, right? Especially considering that four cats from our home went missing in the last month.
I definitely had some ugly thoughts. Everybody who I encountered was to blame. I viewed many of my neighbors with great suspicion. These were folks who I’ve barely interacted with, but yet I somehow knew they were responsible for what was happening. It was a strange rabbit hole of emotions that ranged from gloom to paranoia.
Little did I know, a handful of strangers unintentionally conspired to challenge my cynicism. And, even more surprising, this conspiracy started—of all places—online.
I posted pictures of our missing cats in a variety of local community Facebook groups. The initial response was mostly people saying how sorry they were and how strange the whole endeavor was. Nobody stepped forward with any useful information.
Then, about a week later, the admin of one of the groups—one that was dedicated specifically to lost animals in our community—took it upon herself to find my cats. This lady went out of her way to dig into every possibility to find them. She messaged me the second that she found a lost cat who loosely fit my description. None of her findings panned out, but I was taken aback by the helpfulness of this complete stranger.
My original post had started to fade into digital obscurity. The way these message boards work is that if nobody interacts with your post, it becomes less optimized, sinking below newer and more engaging posts.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, another stranger chimed on the post. “I think that your black-and-white cat was found in another message board,” she wrote in the comments section. I ventured over to the specific message that she mentioned.
And sure enough—there he was, munching on food in a complete stranger’s house. After so many dead ends in the past few weeks, it didn’t seem possible. I bombarded the post with comments, tagging my wife, asking the stranger for a closer picture of the cat to confirm, the best time to come check him out, a physical address to race towards, etc.
It turns out this cat was dumped 15 miles away. He wandered onto a property where the owner actually had a cattery where she took care of many cats. Our cat caught the eye of cattery owner because he was unique looking. Fortunately, our cat is also very friendly, so he was very receptive of making the transition from the barn to a warm, loving home.
“This cat is too nice,” she thought. “Somebody is missing this cat.”
So she posted his picture, which I found a day later.
If I had not found this picture, our cat would have stumbled upon the best possible scenario. This family of complete strangers willingly took in this scraggily-looking stray, providing warmth, food, shelter, and love.
“We were ready to keep him if nobody claimed him,” she said. “He is just so sweet.”
Eventually, the elation of finding one of our four cats via this online crapshoot dissipated. I started doing the mental math of humanity with whom I encountered along these past tumultuous weeks.
How many people were responsible for trapping and dumping my cats? Probably one miserable guy. Some pathetic loner with too much time on his hand.
How many people strived to find the cat? There was the admin. Then, there was the lady who connected the dots between the two different message boards. Then, there was the cattery lady, who also had a large, loving family with a daughter and two granddaughters, who played with the cat. That alone is six people right there.
However, there was still more: a neighbor who had some outlandish—but well-intentioned—theories about what happened to my cats (she was being monitored by “Ruskies” so she had to be careful about going into too many details); our local animal control officer who spent more time driving around our particular neighborhood looking specifically for our cats; the hordes of online Good Samaritans who registered some mental space for images of our cats, just for the off-chance that they might recognize them in their day-to-day errands.
The mental math was staggering. I could easily hang humanity out to dry based on the wrongdoings of one individual. Or, I could find solace in the number of caring and thoughtful individuals who went well beyond the call of duty—all to find a complete stranger’s cat.
The scoreboard isn’t even close. It’s a complete blowout.
George Carlin said, “Scratch any cynic and you will find a disappointed idealist.” George, as he tends to be, is mostly right: idealism usually becomes watered down by experience with the more dreary elements of reality.
But that transition from idealist to cynic does entail some choice and perspective. I will probably be a cynic until the day I die, but this experience certainly provided a compelling reason to have faith in humanity. There are certainly more people in this world willing to do the right thing in comparison to those doing the opposite.
Thanks for challenging my cynicism, world. Oh, and thanks for finding my cat too.
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