His black head stuck up out of the leaf pile. We could see him from across the park. Several times he bounded out of the leaves to greet people walking and running the pathways. He seemed joyful. He would take long bounding jumps then curve his back down almost like he was bowing. Then he would bounce away and finally end up in the leaves.

We were in Istanbul on the way back from Ethiopia. Dogs have it marginally better in Turkey than Ethiopia. One of our pastor friends in Ethiopia was shocked to find out that many of us had dogs as pets and that we let them inside of our homes. In a strange twist of fate he ended up staying with one of of partners in Chicago who has a tiny indoor dog for several days last summer. I can’t wait to talk to him about it.

The dogs of Istanbul have a long history. In 1869 Mark Twain wrote in his famous travelogue, Innocents Abroad, that he had seen lots of dogs on the streets. “The dogs sleep in the streets, all over the city. From one end of the street to the other, I suppose they will average about eight or ten to a block.” There have been attempts to deal with the problem, but nothing yet has worked. The problem just keeps getting bigger. There is an ugly trend of buy cute puppies and then when the dogs get older, taking to the forests and abandoning them. They dogs eventually make their way back to the city and live on the streets as best they can.

All most dogs want is to be fed and loved. A friend posted on my facebook a moving little video. It shows a person getting up and facing the day. Slowly, through the human interactions, the person absorbs the hurts and bruises of the people he meets. The tears, the sorrows and confusions build up and the character that left the house in the morning buoyant is now burdened down. Finally, arriving back home with drooped shoulders the character trudges up the steps to their door.

On the other side is a dog. The dog waits on the floor, melancholy from a day of waiting. Then the door opens. The dog and person meet. In an instant both are renewed. I have watched it over and over. It is so they way I feel. Days are long, the hurts are real and it gives me great joy that waiting for me when I get home are two creatures whose only purpose seems to be cheering me up.

I wish the world were more filled with love and support. I wish that is what we valued and protected most. I wish that people could go through the world and constantly get their needs met. Isn’t that what the God tells us, that our gifts, our lives, have been offered to each other, for “the common good.” (I Cor. 12:7). Like the piles of leaves in the park we should be stationed around each other ready to bound out at a moments notice and cheer each other on.