A few years ago, my dad and stepmom moved to the countryside of rural South Carolina to live in her childhood home. They went to care for her aging father, who has since passed away. Our family loves to visit and drive their golf cart and ATV beneath the trees and over the fields of the property. They live on several acres, home to an assortment of animals ranging from cats and dogs to horses, goats, and donkeys. While most of us choose our pets, they were once favored by a fascinating creature who, eventually, chose them.

My dad is something of an animal whisperer, but no one could get close to the wary, street-smart black cat who visited their property looking for food. His battle-scarred body bore evidence of a hard life and the effort it took to survive without an owner. He ate what was left out for him but wanted nothing to do with those who placed it there.

His trust issues probably stemmed from a life in which he’d received little kindness, much less affection.

You can only imagine my dad and stepmom’s surprise the day they looked outside and saw our youngest daughter sitting on their back steps holding that big black cat and scratching him behind the ears. How did she charm this animal who didn’t want anything to do with anybody?

She meowed at him.

That one word — one sound — crumbled the protective fortress around his feline heart. She bridged the gap when she spoke his language. From that day forward, Lamont, as my dad named him, was a lover not a fighter. He no longer feared people but learned to trust them. I remember the weight of him curled against me while I sat on the porch, his purr a rhythmic motor rumbling deep inside him.

Like Lamont, we all yearn for affection and connection, but trust doesn’t come cheap. If we’ve been burned by past relationships, we learn to build walls or make excuses to shield ourselves from the rejection we fear.

Please come visit me at (in)courage for the rest of the story!

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