I ask every couple to write about themselves. One of the questions I ask them to address is why they want to marry. Listen to part of Hallie's answer: "Before Paul and I began to date, I had already made up my mind that he had the qualities of the person that I wanted to marry. Had I not already decided that I wanted to marry him, I would not have started dating him."
Well, now. That is not an answer you hear every day! Of course, humor aside, this totally makes sense. But for that, to paraphrase what Paul Harvey used to say, you need to know the rest of the story.
There is certainly no right or wrong way to meet the love of your life. Perhaps there are as many as there are love stories. However, most if not all of us, get to spend time with the person who we fall in love with in short spurts of time. After all, life continues with all of its daily obligations and tasks. Though, we might be swept off of our feet, the world continues to turn.
Well, that is unless you are Hallie and Paul. Have you ever lost your job, only to say in hindsight, that it was the best thing that ever happened to you. Well, move over, because Paul has you beat. Listen to this: "As fate would have it, I was put off work for a few months... just when Hallie began establishing her practice... I would spend my days at the barn volunteering... Hallie and I began spending time together as I helped her around the barn... We really began to bond when she acquired two miniature horses for her play therapy sessions. The "minis" came in pretty rough shape, and we spent time together getting them used to being around humans and then desensitizing them to activities that could take place during sessions."
Hallie elaborates a little more, "We spent the better part of the day, several days a week, for several weeks working with the “minis.” Over time, we began to have more and more serious discussions and I knew that I had met the man that I wanted to marry. Paul was exactly the man who I had been looking for – kind, open, accepting of me, intelligent, funny, and someone who liked horses!"
What is it we look for in a mate? Our shared tradition had the best, simplest, most universal answer. In the Book of Micah, we are told that the best course of human behavior is to, "act justly, love kindness, and walk humbly". But how do you know if a person fits that bill? After all, we all put on a little bit of a show when we interact socially, especially with a potential romantic partner? How do you, in the words of the great Madonna (the singer, not the saint..), "put your love to the test?"
Now, in my days of teaching middle school and high school, I used to tell the kids, especially the girls, that when they go on a date to check how their date treats... the waitress. I mean, for you they could be putting on a show, but their true self will show from how they treat that other person, over whom they have a tiny bit of authority for a small sliver of time. That can really tell them about that person. Still, because those circumstances are limited, even that is of limited utility.
Hallie and Paul show us a better method. Unlike Dr. Sheade, I am no social scientist, not of animal nor of human behavior. However, I cannot think of a better way of really getting to know a person to the core of their being, than through working together with animals who have suffered. Think again about those very words, and now think back to those weeks Hallie and Paul spent together. They each got to observe if the other could indeed, really and truly "act justly, love kindness, and walk humbly".
I don't know if this experiment can be replicated. Certainly, most of us will never have the chance to test this theory. However, I truly believe that Hallie and Paul show us the best way possible to get to know someone, especially that someone, with whom we will then spend the rest of our lives.