Posted August 01 2016

An eight-year-old young girl slowly opens her eyes in a bed that is not her own. Her throat parched and sore from a recent tonsillectomy, she struggles to swallow but a burning lump prevents this. Frightened and confused, she battles to take in the unfamiliar world around her that is a hospital ward. A sleeping nun sitting in the chair next to her is summoned from her slumber; this is the moment she had been waiting for. A gentle smile caresses her face as she rises, placing a cool cloth to the forehead of the child, without words she speaks a softness the young girl quickly understands: that all will be well.

Although the child welcomes the gesture, a fire still rages within her throat—in a desperate attempt to snuff it out, she mouths the words, “Water, can I please have a glass of water?”. Just one sip of water is all the salvation that is needed and the glass is returned as the comforted child lays back down and rests once more.

That little girl was me, and I will never forget how much I welcomed and understood the kindness shown on that day in a world so unfamiliar, so frightening and so foreign. That memory was recently revived just last week when a sweet aged ewe arrived at our sanctuary. She was found downed in a paddock where she had lain for many hours through the savages of icy winds, sub-zero temperatures and a severe downpour overnight that would have surely floated the ark. Here in her weakened, semi-conscious, recently shorn and underweight state, she had given birth to her baby—sadly, all that remained of that baby was the afterbirth. No doubt a hungry fox was somewhere devouring his “booty”.

Rushed into our heated nursery and propped up between two bales of straw, hot bottles and towels set to work to dry her, while fluids were administered, temperature taken, medications were given and soothing words offered. In these moments she was counted not as a something but as a someone, and she was given a name, Dixie Bell. All the poor creature could do was watch on in wide-eyed terror, desperately wishing to flee while her almost-frozen and lifeless body refused to respond as she tried to take in the unfamiliar world around her. But what struck me most by the scene before me was not the ewe’s response to her surroundings, the food or even the warm temperature, but how tragically sad it was that the most foreign thing to her was kindness, and she suspiciously didn’t know what to do with it.

Something can be described as “foreign” if it is not known about it or it is not within one’s experience.

Watching Dixie Bell desperately trying to take in her foreign surroundings, I was reminded that we are all tethered to this world by our perception of it, and whilst we can never know exactly what another is thinking, we should know that our kindness should never be foreign to them, be they human, non-human or terrified little eight-year-old girls in hospital wards.