Wednesday, February 19, 2014
The other night on my way home from work I hit a dog. I was driving through my neighborhood like every other night when out of nowhere I see a ball of fur dart out in front of me. I slammed on my brakes and felt a thud under my right front tire followed by a blood-curdling cry. Oh my gosh, I killed it I thought to myself, frozen in shock. Immediately I looked out my passenger side window realizing the crying was moving away from my car, and I see the poor thing running back up its owner's driveway holding up its left front paw. Holy crap, it's still alive! I couldn't believe it. I thought for sure I had just killed it. I fumbled to get my car in park and get the keys out of the ignition before I was walking up the driveway to where the owner was now holding the dog in the garage. "I am so sorry, is she okay? Is it her paw? I didn't even see her; I am so sorry. I feel so bad." I kept saying over and over. The owner was extremely nice, telling me not to feel bad, that it wasn't my fault, that she ran out in front of me. Still, my heart felt heavy in my chest. Losing two of my own dogs last year, and knowing how awful it is, I did not want to be the reason for someone else losing theirs. The dog was no longer crying, but the owner was saying how he was going to take her in just in case. I kept apologizing until I felt like I may be annoying him, and when I felt like there was nothing more I could do, I got back in my car and went home.
I sat at the kitchen table in a daze, thinking about it, replaying it over and over in my head. I thought about it in the shower, while brushing my teeth, while laying in bed. I kept thinking of the dog's face in my headlights and the sound of the thud. And even though I knew I hadn't killed the dog, that I hadn't been speeding, that I didn't do anything wrong, and even the owner himself told me not, I still felt bad. I felt awful.
Suddenly, my thoughts turned to one of my old co-workers. A woman in her forties who was so nice and so pleasant and whom I liked so much; and how a few years ago she had struck and killed a twenty-year-old guy after he drunkenly ran into the street in front of her car. Like me, she hadn't been speeding or drinking or doing anything wrong, but unlike me, it wasn't just an animal, it was a person. I had a whole new level of sympathy for her. Here I was beside myself because I accidentally ran over a dog's paw, and the level of guilt I felt must have been a mere fraction of what she went through.
I'm a strong believer in things happening for a reason. Sometimes that reason may just be that you were at the wrong place at the wrong time, but I believe that God will use these misfortunes for good. Whether they teach us lessons or better our character, I do not think he ever wastes our pain or experiences. I could drive myself crazy thinking how maybe if something were different I would have missed hitting that dog. If I had driven faster or slower, if I had lingered at a stop sign longer. But what if lingering at the stop sign meant that the dog would have been further out into the street and instead of just its paw, I ran over its whole body? The what-ifs are not only endless; they're worthless. It happened how it happened. And that's when I had the thought that maybe God gives me these serious, yet diluted experiences to teach me empathy towards others. That he wants to grow my ability to feel others' pain, even if only in little pieces. He knows that if that had been a person instead of a dog, it would have sent me to a mental hospital. So He handled me with kid gloves because I am a fragile person, but he also knows my ability to feel things deeply is also a gift. So he lets me feel the pain and guilt of hurting a dog so, not only am I more cautious, now I have a memory that I can draw from and tap into when I come across someone dealing with something similar. Because sometimes hearing someone else's story of how they went through what you're going through makes you feel a little less alone. And even more importantly, it makes you look at them differently, now understanding the pain they, too, hold inside.
photo via lomography