I spent much of the morning nervous as all get out because Mabel, my seven-year-old Basset Hound, was under anesthesia for a dental procedure. So, when 3:30pm finally rolled around, oh the relief that flooded my soul. As BJ and I stood in the vet's waiting room, another couple came in carrying a sweetheart of a border collie. Between their tears and the receptionist's kind words, it was evident that they were having to put their precious dog to sleep. I tried to be discreet, but it was nearly impossible to tear myself away from their obvious grief. Before I knew it, I was standing there crying. I might have been embarrassed, but I realized BJ was crying, too. At that moment, Mabel came bounding out with her tail wagging, a picture of health and vitality. I gathered her up and we hustled out, stopping first to tell that family, "I am so sorry."
And I really was very, very sorry. I love my dogs so much, and I could feel their pain. Not because I've gone through it, but because I know one day I will.
On the drive home, I was struck by how, just a few minutes before, the world had seemed like a pretty decent place. My little day was proceeding quite smoothly, and my dog had come through her procedure with flying colors. But then those folks came in. Their tears as they clung to the last few precious moments with their beloved dog were an unexpected reminder that my perspective is not the only one. They reminded me that an infinite realm of heartache, hope, agony, and triumph exists beyond my little one woman circus.
But shame on me for needing to be reminded. You see, sometimes I get so caught up in my little sphere that I forget every single person I encounter is carrying the weight of their own world. While I'm fretting over my Basset Hound's dental procedure, parents are watching their toddlers go through chemo, folks are getting laid off from their job of 20+ years, husbands and wives are devastated by their spouse's infidelity, and precious senior citizens are having to decide between groceries and crucial medications. And, as if that weren't weighty enough, pilots are being burned alive in cages and humanitarian aid workers are being taken hostage by terrorists.
All this while I go about my day, and a comparably good one at that. This leads me to two main thoughts.
First of all, I need to practice a far greater degree of gratitude. In the midst of being blessed, I forget just how blessed I am. I ought to be constantly counting my blessings, with the sober understanding that they could disappear at any time....and with the humble realization that I do not deserve a single, solitary one. (Thank you, Jesus.)
Secondly, from the overflow of gratitude and humility should spring sensitivity. I've got to switch out my mirror for glasses so that, instead of constantly peering into my own existence, I can see into the hearts and hurts of others. So that I can give instead of take. So that I can see a need and meet it. So that I can extract myself from the center of the universe and help shoulder the load. So that I don't miss out on knowing, loving, and learning from the beautiful people with whom I'm privileged to cross paths.
Wherever those folks from the vet's office are tonight, I wish they could know I'm still thinking about them and grieving their loss. I have every reason to suspect that was an incredible dog...and one that will be sorely missed.