Precious' Ball

On the top of my dresser sits a hollow plastic purple ball. It's empty now, but once that ball brimmed with life, energy and activity. Every now and then when I'm tempted to feel sorry for myself I look at that ball and remember something I learned from it, and from the little guy who rolled around in it for most of his life.
My late wife Marcia and I had a menagerie of hamsters, rats, and guinea pigs during our marriage. They were all unique, with special personalities and little lives all their own and we learned lessons on life from each and every one of them. There was one who stood out from the others though.
Precious was one of three hamsters that we had during the marriage, and he was something else. We had just lost our first hamster, Patches, when we got Precious. We were pretty heartbroken over losing Patches, so about a week later we went to Pet Country to look at the animals. We weren't particularly looking for another hamster, but we saw one there that was nearly identical to Patches, except for one major difference: his left hind leg was just a small stump, but there was no foot. He was left all alone in the bin after his other brother and sister hamsters had been sold. Nobody wanted to buy him because he only had three legs. When we first saw him sitting there all by himself in the middle of the cage in the wood shavings, he didn't try to burrow or hide in the shavings or come over to the glass to look at us, like most other hamsters would have done. He just sat there looking entirely forlorn and forsaken; he looked like the saddest hamster in the world, as though he had nothing left in life to live for. Besides his missing foot his ears were a little smaller than Patches' ears had been, otherwise they looked practically the same.
The pet store said they would probably put him to sleep in a couple of days, so they gave him to Marcia and me for free.
Well, we took him home, and he was very docile at first. We put him in Patches' old cage and gave him a brand new igloo to sleep in and gave him a food dish. The pet store had told us that he was a female, so we named him Precious. We didn't figure out that he was a male until a couple of months later when he began to mature, but by then the name had stuck and we kept it.
For the first couple of days at our apartment Precious just sat around in the middle of his cage. He wouldn't do anything, even go into his igloo. (Patches had a ceramic house, but we got rid of it when he died, we just couldn't keep it). About the second or third night that we had Precious I brought home a brand new hamster ball for him to roll around in. You have probably seen them, they are colored, hollow plastic balls with a screw-door and slots for air holes. You would put a hamster into one of them, screw the door on, and let them roll all around the house in them. Hamsters are nocturnal animals, and our first hamster Patches had taken to his ball right away and used to have a regular course through the apartment that he rolled through like a race track, over and over again each night.
That first night we put Precious into his ball and screwed the door shut and watched to see what he would do. He hesitated for a few moments, then made a few tentative ventures to roll it, rocking back and forth a couple of times, and when he figured out what it was for and what he could do with it, he took off and rolled through the apartment all night. The next morning I got up and put him to bed. I opened the door to his ball and let him crawl out of it into his cage. He was dead tired, and dragged himself over to his igloo and crawled into it and went to sleep. The next night he was up at around nine o'clock and waiting for me with bright, expectant eyes.
After that, every night at about nine o'clock sharp there he was waiting at the door of his cage, bright eyed and bushy tailed, telling me with his eyes, "Hey, Dad! It's time for me to go to work!" Slowly it began to dawn on Precious that he had his own cage, with his own igloo and water bottle and food dish, that he had a mommy and a daddy who cared for him, and that he was "somebody"; i.e. he had a life and belonged to a family.
What a change came over his personality now that he found out that he was loved, and that when he was in that ball he was no longer disabled; having three legs didn't matter anymore and it never slowed him down. Each night Precious filled his pouches with his favorite snacks before I would put him in his ball. Around the middle of the night he would stop for lunch in his favorite spot in our bedroom and you would hear the "Plank, plink, plunk" of him dropping all of his snacks he had stored in his pouches one by one onto the bottom of his ball to snack on. Then, after he ate his lunch and rested for about a half hour he would take off again and complete the rest of the night rolling all around the apartment. Then around five in the morning he would roll his ball over to Marcia's side of the bed and park and sleep until I would get up later and put him back into his cage.
He felt that he was the luckiest hamster in the whole world, with the best job in the world, rolling around that apartment all night in his ball. Over the next two years he rolled around in that ball every night and gave it 1000%. He forgot that he only had three legs, and never sat around feeling sorry for himself. All that he had was a plastic ball to roll around in, but he gave it everything he had and he lived a full life with it. When he was in that ball he was a race car driver racing his car around a track; he was a ships' captain sailing his ship through the seas; he was an astronaut guiding his spaceship through the cosmos, conquering the territory that God had given him to conquer.
There is a great lesson in that for all of us. God has given each one of us a "ball" in life, some project, some task to do, just as Precious had his special task in life with his ball. And that little three legged hamster did what he was meant to do with all of his heart and never looked back to his time in the pet store when he felt that he had nothing left to live for. His life was rich because he put everything he had into what he was meant to do, and he gave it everything he had and never made any excuses.
As far as he knew he was the luckiest hamster in the whole universe, and you know something?
He was.
So too, in our lives, we can attack whatever problems we have, whatever trials that come our way with the same spirit that a little three legged hamster did when he found out that he had a purpose in life, and that somebody cared enough for him to give him a home and a ball.

Jim Foard