That Kind Of Person
Several weeks ago, I was driving to work and noticed a dog darting across the opposite two lanes of the busy four lane street. My first thought was “I hope the other drivers see him.” Suddenly I saw the dog roll violently across the two lanes in front of me, gaining speed until he flipped over the curb, coming to rest on the snowy grass next to the sidewalk.
Shocked, I found myself pulling into the parking lot next to the dog. Its eyes were wide open and he seemed still, and then I noticed his side gently rising and falling. He was alive, but clearly hurt.
A man pulled his car in behind me, got out, and began gently stroking the injured dog, murmuring in soothing tones. Another man got off the bus, immediately came over, and took off his winter coat, laying it over the dog to keep him warm. A woman pulled over and gave me her phone number so we could call her regarding the cost of the dog’s care. We eventually moved the dog, using a cardboard box someone pulled from a Dumpster, into the back of my car. I drove him to Noah’s Animal Hospital, followed by one of the men who offered to take responsibility for the dog’s care. Donations poured in from community members who heard about the dog through social media. Nicknamed “Dasher” by the animal hospital staff, he is now recovering and may find a new home.
It’s a happy ending, but I’m still shaken by it. It’s so difficult to watch the suffering of another living thing. It’s difficult to understand why the driver who hit the dog just kept going. But I’m really surprised at myself. I always wondered if I was “that kind of person,” who stops and helps instead of driving away and letting someone else do it. Even though I was scared and had no idea what to do, I chose to stop.
Since then, I’ve been trying to figure out why I chose to stop, and the person who keeps coming to mind is Pastor Stephen. Reverend Stephen Sinclair was my pastor at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Indianapolis for less than two years. It’s the only time I’ve ever joined a church, and because of the way he was treated I may never join a church again. There were many things I liked about Pastor Stephen: his caring nature, his sense of humor, his preaching style, but I also liked that he loved animals. However, he didn’t see them as sidekicks, simply cute and sweet and loyal. He saw them as sentient beings, worthy of as much love and care and respect as a human, and he was willing to literally practice what he preached.
During a visit with Pastor Stephen one spring afternoon, he shared with me that he had noticed a dead cat next to the road that morning as he drove into town. He stopped his car, took a blanket out of his trunk, picked up the dead cat, wrapped him in the blanket, and placed him in the back of his car. The cat was still in the trunk, and Pastor Stephen asked me to help him bury it.
It was so strange watching my pastor dig a hole to bury this cat he didn’t know, that wasn’t his pet or companion. It was strange to help him place the cat in the shallow grave, to pray for it and say goodbye. I was in awe of Pastor Stephen’s sadness for this living being that had died alone and in pain, and I was in awe of his desire to honor and respect this individual life. Even though it felt uncomfortable, and awkward, it was also beautiful to see how deeply he cared. He was “that kind of person.”
That afternoon made such an impression on me that when I saw Dasher lying on the grass, my first thought was, “What would Pastor Stephen do?” He would stop, and so I stopped. I watched again in awe as people offered to help: the man who was willing to pay for Dasher’s medical care instead of calling Animal Control to euthanize him; the man who shared his winter coat on a freezing December morning; the people who flooded the animal hospital with phone calls to offer donations, then flooded social media trying to find Dasher a foster home.
These people are now in my memory with Pastor Stephen, where they offer me a constant reminder that all life is precious, and all living things deserve respect. I will remember that when life presents me with another opportunity to step up and help, instead of simply driving away.