Maybe you’ve seen the video. A shelter dog is scheduled to be put down. Absolutely terrified of people, he’s not exactly a great candidate for a family who wants a cuddly pet. But then something extraordinary happens.
As I watched the video I thought of my own Ralphie. We don’t know exactly what he’s lived through, only that he showed up in a rescuer’s yard wearing a choke collar with a clothesline tied to it. He’d chewed through that line to get away.
He still has the occasional moments of fear and even terror but mostly he’s happy dog who’s at home in this world. In fact, he’s even gotten a little full of himself at times. It makes me smile to see him happy and relaxed and to see his utter and overwhelming delight in visiting the dog park.
But I also thought of people whom I’ve known. Some of them I’ve worked with in various capacities and some have just crossed my path. In my younger years, before I’d spent untold hours listening to people and their stories, I would have judged these people harshly. I’m not proud to admit it but I would have been put off by whatever made them different. I’d wonder what in the world was wrong with them that made them unable to look me in the eye. Or why they didn’t take care of themselves better. Or for heaven’s sake, why were they so angry all of the time?
And then I began listening. The more I listened the more I realized that we’re all just trying to get through this life the best way we know how. Sometimes our path has been made easier by a kind family or great opportunities. Sometimes we have fallen into functional and socially acceptable ways of surviving.
And then there are those other folks. If we knew the whole story we’d realize how wrong we were in thinking they weren’t doing very well. Indeed, they have been walking a hero’s journey. Sometimes the fact that they’ve gotten out of bed and been willing to try for one more day is as great of an accomplishment as anyone could be expected to achieve in one single day. Sometimes they are angry or scared or standoff-ish because life has taught them to be that way. Sometimes they think so little of themselves because everyone else in their lives has had the same opinion.
We cannot always create the kind of swift transformation seen in this video. We cannot always rescue, or even help other people rescue themselves. But at the very least we can, as best we can, walk through this world with kindness. For all that we see there is much we will not know.
And sometimes, just sometimes, a little patience and a little kindness makes all the difference.