Somehow I’ve managed to catch whatever horrible sinus and chest thing is going around. I haven’t been this sick in years. I forgot how much of a pain (literal and figurative) it is.

In an effort to rest and get a little better, as well as keep whatever armageddon germs have set up a rather alarmingly powerful stronghold in my head and chest from spreading to my coworkers, I stayed home and watched daytime television.

It’s funny how, in some respects, daytime TV is vastly different from when I was a kid staying home on sick days, and in other aspects, it’s exactly the same.

There’s a specific feeling I get while watching soap operas in the middle of the afternoon that tells me something is amiss. (Just in case the entire box of used tissues in the garbage next to me didn’t give me a clue.)

When I was a kid, there was I Love Lucy and the Price is Right and Santa Barbara (does anyone remember that soap? Cruz and Eden were a classic) and now there’s The View and The Talk and Maury. Doesn’t that sound like an incredibly stimulating landscape?

As it turns out, I wasn’t really able to get away from the animal aspect of my life, even with daytime TV.

Granted, I have found that animals tend to pop up pretty much everywhere in my world, and it turns out my cats are terrible nurses (which really wasn’t that much of a surprise). I didn’t expect to have something to write about from my sick bed.

But here we are.

The part that’s likely not terribly surprising is it came from Ellen DeGeneres.

Last year for Ellen’s 60th birthday, her wife Portia not only launched plans to build an Ellen DeGeneres campus in Rwanda to help save gorillas, but also created the Ellen DeGeneres Wildlife Fund, which will continue to help endangered animals for years to come.

It was a touching birthday tribute and everyone wanted to help. For the next year, people from around the globe contributed to the fund to help the gorillas, from celebrities, to companies, to individuals to elementary school classrooms.

There was amazing footage of these gorgeous creatures that they filmed in Rwanda. The majesty of it, the human-like qualities they possess, cannot be understated. Portia at one point said she just wanted to snuggle the little babies and I can definitely see why.

In a year, they’ve managed to raise nearly $6 million for the fund. I would say that’s stunning, but we are talking Ellen here. She’s definitely a force to be reckoned with.

The scene that really got me was when a little boy sat down opposite Ellen on her show and brought in what I’m assuming amounted to a piggy bank by today’s standards. It was a plastic jug full of money and when the camera landed on the little boy, he raised his brown eyes to Ellen and simply said, “It’s for your gorillas.”

I don’t know if it was the mucus or what, but I lost it. I mean, really, rather completely, lost it.

Did you ever have a moment where tears literally catch you by surprise? One minute you’re totally dry-eyed and fine and the next, you’re bawling? That was me.

The moment was unbelievably pure and touching.

But I have to say, some of my greatest lessons come from children. We have kids that get donations for the shelter instead of birthday presents for themselves. They are so proud when they bring in what they’ve collected. You can tell they just wanted to help the animals. Talk about selflessness.

I’ve visited with a number of nursery schools recently and it’s such a joy to watch the kids interact with the pup or kitten I brought. There’s a real guilelessness in the expressions on their faces.

And I don’t want to alarm anyone, but 4 year olds can be wicked smart. Some of the questions they asked me threw me for a loop. Seriously. Their logic skills and ability to reason blew me away.

In some ways, I think animals and children can be the most human of all of us and when the world gets particularly divisive or cold-hearted or unfeeling, we should remember where we can

find true compassion, humility and grace.

Who knew you could get all that from daytime TV?


Jennifer Vanderau is the Director of Communications for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter and can be reached at:, or by calling: (717) 263-5791. The shelter accepts both monetary and pet supply donations and operates a thrift store in Chambersburg. Help support the animals at CVAS by donating to or shopping at the store.

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