Love Thy Neighbor

The tragic events that played out at Navy Yard yesterday are, thankfully, few and far between.  But when they happen, they come out of nowhere. They rock the world. They make time stop moving, for hours at a time. They change people’s lives forever.  And they sure do make you think.

These events bring out compassion in all of us. Suddenly, even though the majority of us don’t have relatives or loved ones at the scene, we’re all panicked and heartbroken and distraught with the rest of the country. We pray for the families of those who are affected.  We worry about the human lives that will never be the same.  It’s what brings us all together in a time of fear, horror and tragedy. It’s what brings change so that these awful events don’t happen twice.

The animal welfare community can sometimes lack compassion. Not for the animals, no way – but towards our fellow humans.  We judge and we make assumptions and we don’t wait to hear explanations. I see it the worst when owners have to re-home pets. I’m guilty of it, I know we all are. We become hurt and jaded and we experience compassion fatigue because we work in a world where the number of lives that need saving is never ending.

But after days like yesterday, the last thing I want to do is fight with my neighbor.  The last thing I want to do is spit hate towards someone whose story I am deciding for myself, instead of hearing it from them. I don’t even want to go close to Facebook, where trolling and bullying others is rampant. I want to wake up tomorrow and face my job in animal welfare with a “how can I help you help your pet” attitude and nothing less. I want to take a minute to stop and listen to people and to actually believe them, instead of always assuming the worst. I want to be more compassionate.

I know it’s hard to stay open minded. Like I’ve already said: it’s easy to become hardened and jaded in animal rescue, and even in this everyday, often violent world we live in. But the second we stop loving our neighbors, wanting to help them and being open to lending a hand when they need it is when the animals begin to suffer. Sure, there are some nasty humans out there – but just like the animals we help, people are individuals. They all come with their own background and their own stories. No two people are alike; no two situations are the exact same. When we move past our own judgements, we open up a world of solutions.

I don’t know about you, but facing the world with love instead of hate seems like a much better idea when there is already so much hate out there. Yes it can be hard, but you just never know where that positive attitude will make a difference.