I have found that love is the greatest source of joy that there is. In fact, my opinion is that joy is love manifested. As such, I think that it is of utmost importance that we experience love on as many levels as we possibly can.
I'm sure you've heard it said that if you want love, then you must give some love away. Well, this is both a true and a lucky axiom, because with Assignment #9, we are going to hit two birds with one stone.
Both giving and loving (often accurately meaning the same thing) are vital components to joy. Down the road, we're going to step up both aspects of our lives, but for now, we'll keep it simple and relatively easy for anyone to experience a little bit of both.
Arguably the safest expression of love is that which is given to an animal. A dog will never hurt your feelings and a cat won't ever throw that unfortunate incident from '93 back in your face during an argument. You can hug a pet, cuddle it, kiss it, say funny sweet-nothings to it, and all you're likely to get is 100% pure Love back.
Pets are widely used in hospitals and nursing homes to help people recover from some of the most deadly diseases. It is a proven fact that loving interaction with a dog or a cat can help the body in a real, physical way.
What's more, a pet is entirely dependent on you. If you choose not to feed and water it, that animal will die. Having a pet that is your responsibility can give you a sense of purpose, as well as all the benefits of its love and playful interactions.
If you already have a pet in your household, commit to spend (at the very least) twenty minutes a day playing, grooming, training, cuddling, talking, or otherwise interacting with that animal. Take responsibility for its care and be sure that it always has the things it needs to live in health and comfort.
If you don't have a pet, get one. A dog or cat would be best due to their generally close relationship with humans, but you're not limited to that. It can be a large rodent (like a guinea pig), a rabbit, or even a horse. The key is that you want to be able to touch it and play with it. It would also be best if you can get a young animal. A kitten or a puppy would be ideal. I also urge you to find this new pet at a local shelter or humane society. The financial costs of adoption are minimal, the animals need homes, and you won't find a more loyal friend anywhere.
If you are in a situation that forbids furry animals (such as a tenant's agreement, or allergies), you have alternatives:
- Get a reptile.
- Volunteer at your local shelter for at least 3 hours a week. Make sure that the majority of your duties include physical interaction with the animals, and spend time giving them love.
- Ask a friend or neighbor for permission to spend time with one of their animals. Make sure they know you'll want to spend time with their pet on a daily basis.
- Get a bird or a fish.
- Lastly, if you live on the moon and cannot keep a bird or a fish alive, get a plant. Make caring for that plant your top priority. Talk to it. Water it everyday. Prune it.
This assignment, like many others, will look different to different people. Due to various lifestyles, we won't all be able to implement this one the same way. However, it would behoove you to give serious thought to how deeply you can actually go, and stretch your boundaries if possible. The more involved you are with this assignment, the more success you are likely to achieve with it.