On the streets of Bangkok, dogs belonging to no one, wander scavenging. These aren’t dogs that have homes or leashes or collars. They’re dogs that find a way to survive. Once, while having lunch at a café in Bangkok, I noticed a dog lying next to an old woman on a dilapidated chair at the alley entrance to another café across the street. He was a healthy looking dog, not scrawny and bony like the dogs that ran past us. There was something different about this dog.
The old woman was blind, missing one eye. The dog crouched at her feet. Every so often, the old woman kicked at the dog and he slid away quickly on his belly, just out of reach of her foot in what looked like a practiced, calculated distance. He waited, then slowly crept back to her side and settled in until she kicked again. This happened several times while we had lunch. I watched the dog hanging in there, wondering what on earth made that dog stay, what bound him to her side? There was no leash holding him there. Other dogs ran by, someone called to him from across the alley with a few leftovers and still that dog stayed right by that difficult old woman, ignoring the passersby. He would not move.
This stumped me.
What was this about? But as we finished lunch, a younger man, presumably the owner of the café, slipped out the door silently and brought a meal to the dog, laying it on the ground by the dog’s hungry mouth, stroking the dogs neck as he ate, the reward for a job well done. It seemed that the owner of the café must have been the son of that old woman. And while he was busy inside running the business, he counted on that dog. The dog kept watch over the old woman in spite of the occasional thump he’d receive from her foot. That dog would not leave her side.
This was the picture of devotion. It spoke volumes to me that afternoon.
How do we develop the tenacity of such a dog, to stay the course, to stay focused on the task we’ve set for ourselves in spite of the thump we feel from another’s foot? When we are committed to something or to someone, devoted and invested in what we’ve set our minds to, how do we stay in the game even when the going gets tough? As a parent of teenagers, I can relate. Teenagers are hard work; they are good at kicks to the jaw. The same is true for us professionally and ideologically. Sometimes we are committed to ideas and directions that might feel like kicks to the jaw. But staying in the game matters. We know what we’re called to do.
Somehow we’ve got to stay in the game. This is devotion.