My friend was driving through her neighborhood last week, and when she inched around a parked moving van, she got a little too close to a woman pushing a baby in a stroller. She didn’t hit the woman, didn’t really even come close to hitting her, but it understandably startled the woman.
My friend—a kind and non-aggressive person—rolled down her window and apologized. In response, the woman gave my friend two middle-fingers and hurled obscenities at her.
That’s one story of how people treat each other.
Last week when I walked out of Target, a few clumps of people stood around watching something. There was an electricity in the air, but I wasn’t afraid; it was an energy of excitement, not terror.
It only a took a moment to discover the object of everyone’s attention—a dog had gotten loose from his owner and was running around the parking lot. I’m not a dog person, but a quick google search confirms that the dog in question was a brown and white English Springer Spaniel.
About two dozen people were trying to catch him, but he darted in and out of the cars. He had a big doggie smile on his face, and it was clear he thought everyone was playing a game with him.
He was having the time of his life.
And truthfully? So were we.
No one was yelling at his owner, asking how she could let this happen. We didn’t have time.
We were too busy whistling, calling him, offering bits of cheese. We all wanted to be the hero who caught this fun, crazy dog.
The dog would start walking toward the whistle or cheese, and when he one step away from us, he’d turn and run away, still playing the game.
But as it went on, we began to worry. This dog had no intention of being caught—he clearly had the stamina to do this all day. And while we might have liked to continue chasing him as well, this was a busy parking lot, and the longer this went on, the more likely he was going to dart in front of a car that didn’t see him and get hit.
There was no way we—now a group over three dozen strong—were going to let that happen.
There was no spoken coordination, no captain, no leader yelling out orders.
Yet we began to make a wide circle to contain him. A few of us got into our cars and intentionally blocked the aisles so no moving cars would drive down the lanes.
We moved in slowly, tightening the protective noose as the dog continued bounding around with joy, not knowing the game was about to end.
Eventually, we closed in and he had no way out, and his grateful owner finally got a hand on his collar.
The owner thanked everyone profusely, we breathed a collective sigh of relief, and you could see the dog’s thumping tail and practically hear him thinking that he couldn’t wait to come back to this awesome dog park with all these fun humans.
We’d all been inconvenienced, our days interrupted, yet no one got angry, no one shouted, or threw middle fingers, or even rolled their eyes.
We didn’t blame the dog—we didn’t assume bad intent on his part, or malice, or stupidity.
He was in danger and didn’t know it, and we helped him, and all felt quite pleased with ourselves afterward.
If only we could always offer each other the grace we offered that dog.