For a while there, love seemed like a stranger. It wan’t too long ago that my small daughter and I were living in a homeless shelter. If you have ever been in a place in life when there was nowhere to call “home,” then you know how hard it can be to recognize love when you feel so alone.
Yet time and again, in the good times and bad, love has come to me, and often from the most unlikely sources. When love felt like a stranger, it was actually strangers who opened their hearts to me and showed me love.
When my daughter and I were able to leave the homeless shelter and settle into our new home, life seemed to be on the up-swing. She loved her new school, and she was thriving. But despite all the positive changes, I started having problems with depression. I was crying a lot, and as soon as I dropped my daughter off at school, I went back to bed. My doctor adjusted my medication, but I still felt that something was missing.
I remembered how comforting my cat had been over a period of sixteen years. But I didn’t realize the extent to which she helped me until she passed away. I decided I wanted another animal to provide the same comfort and trained to help me physically. I found an organization called Healing4Heroes that provides service dogs to veterans like me who suffer from depression, anxiety, mobility limitation, difficulty with prescription retrieval, or PTSD. With the very personal understanding that not all wounds are visible, I contacted them and filled out the necessary forms.
But my heart sank when they notified me that the required service dog training class was going to be in Atlanta, Georgia. It might as well have been on the moon. Traveling meant extra money for gas and hotels—money I didn’t have. I had no idea how this would all happen, but I had to figure it out. I was desperate, and I needed help. If ever I needed a little love to show up, it was then.
I belong to a group on Facebook called “Veteran 2 Veteran Info” that provides information, support, and love for veterans. I wrote a post explaining my need for a service dog, and how the necessary training would take me to Atlanta. I asked strangers to help me with the gas, hotels, and food.
It was hard for me to ask for help, but I was out of options. And deep down, I felt it was unrealistic for people who didn’t know us to help us to such an extent.
I thought my situation was hopeless. But strangers responded, opened their hearts, and opened the door for my new journey. I also received help from many friends who knew my situation and wanted to help me. I praised God and expressed my sincere gratitude to every single person who graciously helped me during my time of need.
I made it to Atlanta, completed the training, and returned home with a service dog. I could not have done it without the love and support of friends and strangers who understood that a service dog would be beneficial to my physical and mental health.
Now I cannot imagine my life without my service dog. She reminds me of the many people who helped me along the way. We started out strangers, but she opened her heart to me and took me in as her best friend. Our dog never leaves my side. She comforts me and also brings lots of smiles to my daughter as well. Our dog gives us a constant stream of love.
I always knew that love can come in all shapes and sizes. I just didn’t know it could come from strangers. This experience helped me realize that I wasn’t alone. People, even strangers, cared enough about me to help me improve my quality of life. Now these strangers are the dearest to my heart. I am so glad I reached out and that they dared to love.