When I was a teacher in Thailand, one of the things I noticed particularly poignantly was the attitude of the scavenger cats who would continually pilfer food around the campus . Despite the fact that these cats had an awful and shrill cry, and the fact that they were thieves and scavengers, I had a great deal of pity for them as animals. Perhaps I am a bit of a soft touch when it comes to showing compassion on those beings which have been abused and mistreated, although I could hardly be blamed for that, but despite the fact that those little cats were not particularly loveable, I still had compassion on them anyway, even as it was my unfortunate duty to trap them from time to time (these traps, it should be noted, were non-wounding and non-damaging ones). It was not a duty I relished, but being a dutiful sort of person I sought to remove the noisome and thieving and potentially disease-ridden cats without causing them any harm, wishing that they were the sort of cats that could be kept as pets and lamenting their lack of friendliness, but doing the best I could do to protect the food supply of the school without causing any harm to the unwanted scavengers. It was a delicate set of requirements that I set out for myself, one that would have been much easier to deal with if I had been dealing with beings that were friendly and kind.
What would it have taken to have had friendly relations with the Thai cats? Given the fact that the external and social environment was so adverse for these creatures, was it possible that a little bit of kindness would have been enough to make the cats less skittish, or was enough damage done that it was impossible to reverse? This is a question of more than academic importance. Although I do not consider animals to be the equal of humans, they clearly are beings that respond based on the way that they are treated, and as someone who has suffered a great deal of trauma and abuse in my own life, I cannot accept the suffering of any other being whose feelings and responses to such treatment mirror so closely my own. Alas, my own ambivalence as a hunter of the cats for personal protection while feeling compassionate for them certainly prevented me from being as ruthless a hunter as others would have been, but it also prevented me from being seen by the cats as anything more than an enemy, even if a reluctant one.
The same problems issues and questions that one has to deal with concerning pests can apply to people as well. If I desired the cats I had to deal with over and over again to be cuddly and sweet, this is even more wish when it comes to people around me. Yet I know that at times and with some people, I must appear to others as being a similar sort of being as those rather unlovable and shrill kittens. Surely, some people look at me, and though I have a hard time understanding it , see me as a threat and a concern. Surely my own life, with the high frequency of trauma that I have endured , has certainly made me as skittish and as nervous as those cats, and my own shrillness, in my own fashion, almost certainly makes me a bit less loveable to someone who might wish for someone who was less damaged and a lot less intense, and a good deal more fun. It cannot be helped, I suppose, even if we do the best we can to enjoy yourselves regardless of what has happened.
Sometimes, I wonder, though, if my characteristic response to be kind and gentle with others has not done harm because of the environment I have found myself in. In my desire to be kind and gentle and tender with those in difficult positions, have I made their lives and situations harder because I was the one to show kindness? This is something that tends to cause some sort of concern for me, since I do not desire to do good merely because I am a good man, but because I wish to have good effects on the lives of those around me. How can one do this? This is a difficult question, depending on knowledge, a certain amount of savvy, and delicacy. It also requires restraint and patience. I suppose it would be worth finding out, as best as I can, and then acting accordingly, to make sure that my efforts at kindness towards those in need of it are as effectual as possible. Let us see what can be done.
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