I saw the brake lights in the middle of the busy road and wondered what could be happening at this time of the morning. A few seconds later, I saw the problem scamper across the four-lane road: a tiny white dog in a purple dress. Then I saw a woman trying to corral the lively pup. In seconds my mind filled in the gaps of the story that this little dog jumped out of someone’s car window, and she was about to witness the death of her beloved pet under someone’s tire. Then I pondered what my role in this little drama was.
Do I stop and help or not? Surely there are other people who will stop. Do I really care enough about a dog to alter my morning plans? While I may not care that much about dogs, I do care about people. And my morning plans could easily be altered. So why not?
I pulled into the center lane and put my flashers on. An athletic black man jumped out of his car and joined the foot chase as the dog took off down a residential road. I followed in my car thinking at the very least I could give them a ride back to the car. But the little dog quickly outran the man, and I followed in my van.
The dog stopped at a house at the end of a cul-de-sac. Even though I tried to coax her my way, she ran to the back yard. The other man and I cornered her in the backyard, but she found an escape under the deck and firmly held that safety position.
It turned out we had chased her home. A neighbor informed us that was where she belonged. The woman chasing the dog in the road was just a good Samaritan too, and she gave up the chase when we entered the neighborhood. I offered the man a lift back to his car, which was still sitting in the middle of the four-lane road. We laughed about our attempted good deed.
No big pay off. No big reward. No hero card to play. Just a dog getting back to where she belonged in the first place. So was the sacrifice of my time wasted?
A year ago my kids saw this mangy dog wandering in an abandoned parking lot. They wanted to stop and help. I didn’t, but I told them if the dog was still there on our way back, that we would stop. I knew the dog was not going to make it no matter what I did. But kids don’t understand that. I knew the dog could be dangerous. But the kids don’t see danger; they see need and opportunity.
When we drove by again, that dog was still there. I didn’t stop to save an obviously lame and sick dog walking mindlessly in circles. I stopped because I wanted to model compassion for my kids, even if it was for a dog that was beyond helping. I made the kids wait in the car while I called the dog catcher. While we waited, I tried to keep the dog away from the busy road without touching its disgusting fur.
To this day, when we drive by the abandoned parking lot, my kids often remember that mangy dog. They ask what happened to it. We don’t know because one of them had to pee, and we decided to leave before the dog catcher arrived. But I remember that I said yes to kindness that day. It might have been “wasted” on the dog, but it was not wasted for my kids. Instead of remembering a compassionless, busy mom who didn’t stop to help, they remember that we at least tried. They learned kindess.
I also believe that Someone else is watching how we deal with the weak and helpless we come across every day. I know that in God’s economy nothing is wasted. (Reminds me of one of my favorite Jason Gray songs.) No act of kindness goes unnoticed. He sees how I treat the ones in need that cross my path. Like last night in downtown Nashville when we gave a man $30 to get a cab after his car had been towed. I followed Andrew’s lead, and when he opened his wallet, I opened mine too. As we walked away, we wondered if it was foolish, but this morning I was reminded that nothing is wasted.
It’s so much about the people, or dogs, that we help. It’s not so much about whether or not our help solves the situation. It’s really about our heart in the helping. It’s about whether or not my heart is open, whether or not my heart trusts my heavenly Father to provide for what was lost in time or money. He sees, he knows and he cares. No kindness is ever wasted with him.
Have you ever had an act of kindness that seemed like it was wasted? I’d love to hear about it.