Last week I had the good fortune of visiting an elementary school where one class spurred their third- and fourth-grade brethren to raise money for the local humane society. “Just $1” was all they asked from everyone.
They ended up taking in $1,000.
I joined a humane society employee in thanking the children and introducing them to two of the dogs awaiting adoption. Every child was allowed to approach and pet the setter-like pups we had.
The children were sweet and well-behaved; many wanted to regale us with stories—mostly tragic—of their families’ dogs. One youngster, though, really stood out to me.
She was part of the Special Education class and her teacher held her during her introduction. The sprite’s dark hair spiked out in fine braids and red bows, matching her striking red-and-white ensemble and nicely framing her inverted teardrop-shaped face. Her large, round eyes popped when she came within an arm’s length of the pooch. I thought at first that the situation was too much for her. As her teacher repeatedly (and somewhat exasperatedly) encouraged her to say something, an altogether different kind of communication was starting to occur: As the pooch stretched her tiny head toward the girl, the girl’s round eyes had changed from surprise and anxiety to…what? Some kind of understanding? The two youngsters, canine and human, seemed to be having a soundless conversation together. I told the teacher the girl was already saying something though we couldn’t hear her. Thankfully, the teacher relaxed and allowed the child a few more moments with the dog.
After all the children had met the dogs, and as the presentation of the $1,000 donation was about to begin, I scanned the audience of children and noticed the little “red-and-white” girl in the back row, just staring into space. What was she thinking or seeing? I watched her long enough for her to notice me and lock eyes. I smiled and waved; she beamed and waved back.
I wanted to scoop her up and take her home with me. I wanted her to become best friends with the little pooch at the end of my leash, having a lifetime of endless, wordless conversations together. I wanted, at least, to always remember the calm and wonder that came over her when she and the pooch looked into each other’s gaze.
I thought about this encounter when I first saw Marshall Soulful Jones perform his poem “Touchscreen” (watch the video below—I promise you it’s worth your time).
I think Jones would agree that in our iSociety, the invisible thread between a little girl and a pup trumps every kind of technological connection we idolize.