Lately I’ve been thinking about the people who rescue us. The people who provide us with shelter or hope. The people with open hearts, who so generously give their time and wisdom and aid. In my life I’ve been blessed with a few of these people and lately I’ve been thinking a lot about one of them. Her name was Peggy.
She didn’t look like a guardian angel. She looked like a middle-aged woman with greying hair, slightly stout and stiff, but with a gentle smile that reached right into children’s hearts. She reached into mine – not an easy feat. I was a shy and guarded kid.
But the thing is, I was a stray kid and Peggy, bless her heart, took in strays. Horses, chickens, rabbits, cats and dogs, and also children. I needed a place to go, an escape, a safe place to ground me and someone to guide me and Peggy was willing to be that person.
She had horses and she taught riding lessons. I was longing to learn to ride, and when I had no money to pay for lessons she let me earn them by doing chores around her property. I fed her chickens, scooped up the manure, scrubbed water troughs, whatever chores she could come up with. And in turn, she taught me to ride horses.
And horses can be saviors for lost kids. They teach responsibility and humility, strength and patience. They teach athleticism and balance and listening. And they are almost magical in their beauty, which is why they capture the imagination of so many young girls, I think. They certainly captured mine. I lived and breathed horses when I was young and still love them today.
Peggy had a beautiful humility. When I tried to tell her what she meant to me she would brush it off or make a joke or, at her most sentimental, give me an awkward hug. I feel like I never really got to tell her how grateful I was.
I’m sure that for each life she touched, her legacy is different, but for me her presence was life-altering. Her kindness and her trust in me – to do chores unsupervised, to ride her horses, to teach lessons and lead trail rides as I got older – was the single most positive and important thing someone did for me growing up.
Peggy died far too young, from heart failure. Sometimes I wonder if all that love she gave just wore her out. Because how could such a big and generous heart betray her like that? Years later I still marvel at the sheer amount of love and kindness she gave me. I wish I’d known, long ago, just how precious and rare a gift it was.