Gasping People

Tyson likes car rides. He enjoys sticking his boxer head out the window. Adjacent cars stare at him; he stares back. I’m not sure how he breathes at 35 mph, both nostrils to the wind—but he doesn’t complain. After a while he will look out the back window for a time. Then he will stick his head between the front seats for a reassuring pat. But most of the time he chooses to hang his head outside as far as the rolled down window permits. I tend to forget about him, listening to the radio or thinking about the day’s tasks.

Pulling into the driveway he saw our other dog Shiloh, who was out in the yard. I assumed the noise he was making in the backseat was excitement; soon he would be smelling and chasing his canine buddy. A few more seconds passed, and the noise became louder, almost violent. I turned around miffed, the words, “Tyson, what are you doing?” half out of my mouth. From the driver’s seat, I controlled how far the window was down, but there is another control—one on the backdoor armrest. Tyson, his neck outside the car, had a front paw on the control ordering it up. He was choking himself. I hurriedly intervened.

Eyes straight ahead, we go about our business. There are noises around us; there are noises behind us. We have places to go and people to see. We have families, we have jobs, and we have responsibilities. Some of us live with so little margins, even a long stoplight throws us into a tizzy.

Around us, however, are gasping people; life difficult often by their own making—sometimes just hard providence. We certainly can’t help everybody, but we can help somebody. And in the case of our dog, I was the only one who could. Dwell on that thought for a while.

I’m not advocating giving the guy on the corner some money; nor am I suggesting we empty our change into the red pot of the bell-ringer. I am asking each of us to be more sensitive to needs around us and more open to being the one who meets the need.

It is the season, they say, to be warm and fuzzy. But gasping people aren’t seasonal. Tyson is just as likely to asphyxiate himself in January. He didn’t need a bone from me this morning, either; he needed a hand. Perhaps there is someone traveling in your backseat who needs one, too.

Pastor Rich Hamlin

December 5, 2013   

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