Nov 9, 2008

On Humanity and Dogs...

I had a moment today. It was uncomfortable and entirely unexpected on many levels.

In a way it started with the election. On the issue of giving to the poor and others who need it. In a massively-general nutshell, two main approaches are giving to private charities, who then give to those in need, and paying more taxes to the government, who gives via programs. While I tend to prefer the former in theory, it dawned on me that I pretty much suck at giving on my own, mostly due to my own lack of forethought and planning. So I've been mulling over the whole idea of how I can give more to people who need it, and how we can give more as a family.

His Highness and I went to church today (the Cat Daddy was working), followed by a couple of errands. On the way into Home Depot we passed a guy on the streetcorner, wheelchair bound, holding a dog on his lap and a sign reading "Please help a vet in need and his dog."

I really, really wanted to help this guy out. It was the dog. Pets get me every time. But I don't carry cash, so there went that. And I thought of a myriad of other reasons why I couldn't/shouldn't do something to help. So I continued into the store, in search of my little piece of hardware.

Speaking of which, I think the staff must have been really, really bored today. They were so nice and helpful that I felt a little smothered. They asked what I was looking for, and were radioing all over the place, asking me to describe what a cross dowel was, and I was like, "Can you just tell me where the hardware is?" I knew exactly what I was looking for, and with this sort of thing I actually enjoy the hunt. It makes me feel all capable and stuff. But they were insistent on helping, so I let them lead me to the hardware aisle and show me the cross dowels, which were all in metric, where the one I need is in standard units, and I've already tried substituting one that's "really close" unsuccessfully, so I said "Thanks for looking; I'll look for it online."

I still needed some AA's, so I grabbed those and checked out. As I hit "no cash back" the guy with the sign popped back into my mind. Very determinedly. And, you know, thoughts along the line of "well Skerrib, you've been wondering how you can find ways to give," and so on. In a way that told me they would not go away.

And then I remembered my secret stash. In my checkbook, which I hardly ever carry with me. But today I had it, and as it turned out I had a $20 bill in my stash. So I decided to give it to him. I can think of a million different reasons not to go and give out cash, most of which involve folks using it for entirely useless purposes...but it sort of didn't matter if I was about to get duped--I just had one of those strong senses that I needed to do it this particular time. The kind of sense that you don't mess with; you just go with it.

So I did. I pulled out of the parking lot and up to the corner, and I walked up to the guy and said "Hi, my husband's in the Air Force, and I love dogs, so please take this and spend it well." I felt totally dumb, but it was what it was. And he said thanks and God bless, and I said God bless back.

The problem was that I made eye contact with him. As I said hi he lifted his eyes...and he was not the classic scary or insane-looking guy. It sounds all touchy-feely to say, but I was struck by the simple fact of his humanity. I felt disoriented by this, and hurried back to the car and pulled away, giving a little wave & a nod. And out of nowhere I started to cry. This was strange because I'm not normally one who feels so deeply for a person's plight that I'm moved to tears. I will cry in a split second for an animal though, so perhaps it was the dog. It was a very cute little dog.

I dunno, maybe it was hormones and fatigue, but somehow that 5-second interaction affected me rather deeply. Whether or not this guy was for real, it made me feel for all the people who are in need...some are crazy and scary, and some are needy for a reason, and some are fairly normal people who have been really, really unfortunate. So on the way home I cried for the homeless, and hungry, and needy people, because of the simple fact that they're people. Then I pulled up in my nice car to my nice house, and pulled myself together because I had a kiddo to feed, and so on.

So that was my moment. It came out of nowhere and whacked me over the head. Maybe I helped the guy & his dog eat or stay warm somehow, or maybe he went & bought some beer, I don't know. Like I said though, this particular time it didn't matter...


linda t said...

Randy & I were talking about why we are both brought to tears every time we see that "commercial" where Sarah McLachlan shares about animal abuse. The look on those sweet animals gets me every time! Randy said it's because they are helpless and defenseless. I agree.

So ya, I hear ya, I can handle driving by a homeless adult... but if there are kids and dogs involved... I'm a mess.

TulipGirl said...


Drama Momma said...

That was an awesome story. Thank for sharing. It brought tears to my eyes.

Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and hope that what you are doing is being led by God. Even if he did buy beer with the money. Maybe your eye contact will have been just what he needed that day to go on living.

Suzanne said...

I had a story very much like that a few years ago when I was in graduate school. I can really relate to the feelings you wrote about, except this guy didn't even have a dog with him! I know what you mean about knowing that you have to help someone.
I would like to start carrying McDonalds gift cards with smaller increments (say $10 each) in my wallet to give people, so that I know they'll at least get something to eat with it.

Miranda said...

I saw the movie No country for old men and for the first like 20 minutes there is death after death... by an air gun-thingy no less. I was not phased a bit - but 20 minutes in a dog is shot and I gasped in the theaters. My friend started laughing at me because how terrible that human death didn't do one thing, but an animal totally got to me. haha.

And as for the retro chair, it was my great aunt evelyn's. My mom did her estate sale when she died probably almost 10 years ago. I LOVED the chair. It's actually from the 60's and it's in perfect condition. I like that it has no arms and I can sit cross-legged in it.

homelessguyonthecornerwithalittledog said...

Thanks for the money, I bought my self a couple of six packs and a soft taco for my little dog.. God Bless!

richhefty said...

Hi...saw a comment of yours on anothe blog and thought I'd hop on over.

I loved this post. I routinely pass people like this on my way to work and always have some excuse like "Sorry..don't have any cash with me...only plastic." Most of the time that's true...sometimes it's not.

Each time I pass up the opportunity, I'm struck with the verse where Jesus says "As much as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it for me" (loose paraphrase, I'm sure). I always wonder if I really just brushed by a wino or if that was my chance to "do for the least of these".

The couple times I've actually given some money, I have to tell myself that Jesus didn't make us the least bit responsible for the other person's actions. He just gives us a chance to show our heart...and HE handles it from there.

Great story about doing what is right...even though "common sense" tried to talk you out of it.

(Note to self...if I'm ever down on my luck, forget groceries--buy a cute little dog)

richhefty said...

PS--That word in the first line of previous comment is supposed to be "another".

I have no idea if you post on "anothe" blog or not.