Your true character is most accurately measured by how you treat those who can do ‘Nothing’ for you.—Mother Teresa

“Don’t touch that filthy cat.”

The woman’s words broke through the otherwise peaceful setting as my husband Bill and I enjoyed the sights and sounds of Richland Creek.

Turning to peer over my shoulder, I watched as she squirted hand sanitizer on her daughter’s open palms. “Now, rub ‘em together, and don’t pet that nasty stray again, hear me?”

Returning my gaze to meet Bill’s, I chuckled. “Must not be from ‘round here.”

After all, anyone who’s frequented Panacea in Waynesville’s Frog Level knows the coffee shop cat isn’t a stray. At least, not any more.

Named Siobhan, he simply showed up one day more than twelve years ago. His ear was clipped, indicating he’d been neutered, but no one knew where he’d come from, nor how old he was upon arrival. Needless to say, he’s had a home at Panacea ever since.

Though Siobhan may be far from physically handsome, with his one half-closed eye and disheveled whiskers, he makes up for it in kindness. As Panacea’s Theresa Pierce says, “Perhaps he’s not aging so gracefully in the public eye, but he’s well-cared for and is a sweetheart, bringing comfort to many.”

I’ve been the recipient of his kindness on a number of occasions, and on this particular afternoon not long ago, I was on the receiving end again. After being shooed away by the obvious visitor, he stretched, shook the dust from his paws, then sauntered over to us, hopping right up on the picnic table bench.

“Well, hello there.” I stroked his head and his eyes closed. “Don’t mind her. She doesn’t know you.”

As if responding to my encouragement, he bumped me with his head before running his face along the length of my hand—a feline’s way of affectionately claiming something as its own.

Understanding, I whispered, “Don’t worry. You have my heart.”

Running my hand down his spine, I felt Siobhan lift his haunches as my fingers met the base of his tail, another sign of his pleasure.

After a few moments and some good scratches behind his ears, I patted the cat’s head. “Okay, Boy. Time to move along. My food’s getting cold.”

Siobhan sat a moment more, licking his paws to then wash his face, and I laughed. “Good thinking. Maybe I should wash too.”

Soon, the cat jumped down and, with a twitch of his tail, strolled to the next table. Peering over my shoulder, I watched as the black cat flopped at the feet of another Panacea patron.

“I sure hope he knows he’s loved.”

Bill turned to look too. Siobhan lay stretched out in a patch of sunlight. “Oh, he knows. I’m sure he knows.”

And I’m reminded of words from Psalm 36—

“You, Lord, preserve both people and animals. How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!”

Indeed, this coffee shop cat named Siobhan, which means God is gracious, is right at home. And just as God, along with the help of some feline-loving friends, has preserved the life of this kitty, I’d venture to say God’s used Siobhan too.

After all, he’s offered panacea to many over more than a dozen years—demonstrating the unfailing love of his Creator.

Yes, the kind character of our gracious God!

Thank you, Kind Father, for all Your created beings. May each remind us of Your character, Your mercy, and Your love. And may we extend the same to others, especially the least of these. Amen. 

(This appeared first in The Mountaineer.)