Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Confession

We were driving south, coming home from work, when I saw a man sitting on the street. He had a cap out in front of him for passersby to throw change into. He stared vacantly into the distance while his right hand slowly stroked the fur of one of the two dogs that curled up next to him. The dogs, one brown, one grey, were small dogs. The fur one each of them looked like a good wash and a good brush would be in order.

The intersection was very, very, slow so it took us three lights to get up to the front of the line. Joe and I had dug for change so I was ready. As soon as we were close enough, I rolled my window down and called out: Sir! Sir! I have some change.

He turned, startled, and saw me with my arm out the window, with my hand clearly holding some money. He got up and came towards me, the dogs, both on leashes followed. I placed the money in his hand and wished him a good day. He put his hand on my arm, looked me in the eye and said, "Bless you, I thank you for the money, and I thank you for seeing me and speaking to me."

I wished he hadn't said that.

Really wished he hadn't said that.

Because, as we drove away, I was forced to be honest with myself. I had seen the dogs. I had seen that they needed more care. I had wanted to contribute hoping that some of it would go to the dogs. I saw him, but I saw him secondarily to the dogs. I saw that he needed care, that he needed food, and shelter and a good wash. But. I gave him money because of the dogs.

I dont' like admitting this publicly. I feel I need to defend myself by saying that I regularly give to people on the street who ask for change. They don't all have dogs. I want to be a good person, I want to ask in generous ways.

But the only way to be a good person, I think, is to take the challenge to grow when it is offered. His words made me realize that my motive in helping wasn't as much 'human being to human being' as it should have been. That I had prioritized the care of the dogs of the care that he needed. That, though he thought I had seen him. I hadn't. Until he spoke, I really hadn't seen him.

I thought I new better.

Maybe I don't.


Unknown said...

I believe that if we were all honest, this happens to us far more than we care to admit Dave. So thank you for this.

Bite Two said...

You called him "Sir", nonetheless.

clairesmum said...

You are exquisitely honest with yourself and with us, even when it hurts. For me, the next step of compassion for self as motivation to change is a real challenge. The alternative motivation for change (blaming and shaming myself and my existence) is ineffective and toxic, but almost reflexive if I am unaware of my inner voices.

Glee said...

You are not perfect ya know Dave :) as much as we love ya you do fail sometimes as we all do. the thing is that you recognised it eh :)

B. said...

Yes, I understand you, Dave, and I understand that fellow. I can handle the genuine feelings I experience for unfortunate animals by at least doing something like making a donation. What the fellow said is how I have been feeling lately. So many people need to be heard and seen but so many don't or can't be there for others.

Unknown said...

It takes real courage to speak the truth. You are the bravest person I know!

Anonymous said...

Please don't feel badly Dave. I think I would have done the same. You are such an advocate, often speaking for those that can't. The dogs are no different. The man can make choices and decisions. Perhaps some less that stellar decisions have him where he is sitting on the street. Perhaps not. My heart goes out to him, feeling unseen, perhaps unloved. But my heart would go out more to the dogs in that situation. The dogs that have no choice in the street post. The dogs bound to him by a leash, and hopefully by their faithful love. I'm sure it is no surprise that those on assistance often receive more funds if they have a dog (pet). Often those that exist on such meager money find this extra amount much needed. Unfortunately, that means the funds do not trickle down to the ones they were meant for...the dogs. I admit, this is a sore spot for me. A pet is a luxury. They require medical care and good food, warmth and cool. Sleeping on hard ground is not good for them. Not having fresh water is not good for them. Eating people scraps/garbage is not good for them. Not being able to evacuate their bowels and bladder when needed is not good for them. Walking on icy/salted or burning hot cement is not good for them. Fleas and lice antagonize them. Many shelters will not take them. They are not there by choice. Do they offer companionship and perhaps protection? No doubt. But shouldn't such faithfulness be noted and rewarded with care? If you cannot care for your animals, meet their needs, sorry, you should not have them. Perhaps it is the time of the fellow's life to concentrate on himself and not drag the dogs with him on the journey. Although I can understand your prick of conscience, I believe that the kindness you showed to both is outstanding. Thanks for continuing to speak for those that can't!!

Mary said...

People and the apparent instinct to nurture dogs are weird.

My stepdad is a musician, and when he was younger and had evening gigs in towns away from home, he would make a sort of busman's holiday of it and busk during the days as well. He travelled around in a camper van with his dog, and because he wasn't going to leave the dog in the van all day, she came with him.

He's pretty good. His guitars are not cheap, his PA equipment is substantial and well-maintained, it's obvious that he's entertaining for tips rather than begging for charity. During the day the dog - healthy, happy, glossy of coat and wet of nose - would sit with him, curled up on a blanket in a guitar case, with a dish of water and a chewy toy and a golf umbrella providing some shade.

And still, at least once a week, no matter what town he was in, people would give him a couple of tins of the supermarket Basic Value dogfood "for the poor doggie."

We never did manage to decide whether the skewing happens at the eyeballs or the brain.