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I’m not sure where I was first introduced to the phrase, “kicking the cat,” but here’s the concept: An employer has a terrible start to his day—he found out he owed more taxes than he planned on, was held up in a traffic jam, and, in the elevator, had to stand next to a woman who hummed to herself.

When a vital report was not on his desk that he expected, he called in his employee and gives her “a piece of his mind.” This employee, bristling at the unjustness of the situation, in turn berates her assistant. After work, the assistant goes home and yells at his children because the house is a mess. And his youngest son, for reasons he doesn’t understand, turns and kicks the cat.

I appreciate it when someone gives me the benefit of the doubt and doesn’t judge the sum of who I am because of one moment of ill-judgment.

Sometimes I meet someone who says something they’ll regret later, or cuts in front of me in line, or does some other inconsiderate act. And I’ll say to myself, “They’re kicking the cat.” 

We’re all negotiating the bewildering road of life and sometimes there are some rather sharp boulders in the way. With all the possible challenges people are facing, all the hidden sorrows we’ll never know, it’s good to give them a break and not take offense when we become the cat they are kicking.

Today I woke up to bird song and soft light. My Easter lily still has two perfect white trumpets that send out the most delicious smell. I wish I could fill my house with them all year long. My friend, Sherlock (who I never kick BTW), is wandering through the garden, scouting out behind budding bushes, and walking the wall. His black fur is a lovely foil to the white tulips and purple pansies. And the three redbuds in the corner are filled with the most brilliant purplish-pink blossoms.

In a moment I’m going to descend the tortuous steps to the basement and attempt a workout. I took on some new lunges and squats on Monday and I’m still walking like a cowboy. Standing up and sitting down hurts only slightly less than going down steps. In fact, doing nothing at all, I still feel my leg muscles screaming at me.

Opposition in all things, right? If I had lilies all year, would I appreciate their scent as much? If my redbuds never shed their blossoms and gave way to green leaves, would I indulge just looking at them? And if my muscles never stretched and grew (painful as it is), I wouldn’t be as ready to hike down the Subway this summer.

And if everyone were perfectly kind all the time, we would miss opportunities to give them the charity of our hearts.