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I figured I would share a little story with you about something that happened to me when I was the ripe old age of four (yes, four). I remember it so clearly should be indicative of the impact it had on me at that time.
Our loving family dog was nearing the end of his life and was in obvious distress. My father, in an effort to help him, picked him up to put him in a little bed we had made for him. Our dog, my buddy, who we had cared for, and nourished, and given many hours of loving care to, bit my father when he attempted to help him. How could he? I thought. Why? I couldn't understand it. I remember how for a short time, I didn't like him anymore.
I hadn't thought about that story in a long time but something happened last week that brought it back to me. I went to speak with an acquaintance, a neighbor. Not really a friend, but most certainly someone with whom I had always enjoyed speaking with. When I knocked on the door, I was met in an instant with a scowl and a few harsh words, a few of which contained 4 letters. When the door was slammed in my face, I kind of stood there shocked, and in a rush, I was reminded of how my dog had bitten my father those 20 years ago or so. (Ok, so it's a few more than 20). What brought that story back was that same brief feeling of betrayal.
So, why am I telling you this? Because both stories taught me something the next day. You see, when I got up in the morning and was told my dog had died, it became clear to me that he must have been in incredible pain. For him to have bitten, surely what he must have considered to be, a family member, he could not have been himself. Much the same for story number 2 when I learned that the person's spouse had just left them.
This is where I point out that we are all critters of our environments, of our perceptions and feelings. And all of those things can cause you to say, (and bite people) and do things that seem inexplicable to those not immersed in or having knowledge of, the same environment.
If I may be so forward as to offer a little bit of advice (I usually do, don't I?) I would ask you to pause and think before speaking or acting should you encounter someone either behaving out of character or acting in a way that doesn't seem to fit the situation. Extend your hand and your patience when you think it least possible to do so. Reflect and ask yourself if your actions or words are meant to help or exacerbate a situation about which you may know nothing. You may turn around a story that had a sad ending, simply by YOUR actions.

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This is a great story and so important. We all react too quickly rather than applying a little understanding. I'm a teacher and I've been using this awesome program called Who Is NOBODY? Each student picks an organization or cause they are passionate about and then helps them by doing something they love to do (i.e. paint a poster to collect blankets for an animal shelter) to help something they love (animals!) Having each student in my class have a designated week to do their project and then present it to the class in their own time has brought so much awareness and understanding to my class - it's given my students to walk in the shoes of so many real situations other living things have to live through. Applying a little understanding really changes a situation - as you said - from a sad ending to happy just by your actions. The kids in the video on the Who Is NOBODY? homepage can explain what I've written better than me!! www.whoisnobody.com Thanks for your great story about your pet and neighbor :) Kelly
Kelly, Canada

This story reminds me to think of other drivers on the road who may cut you off, go slower than you want to, or otherwise be rude on the road...you never know what pain that driver is experiencing, what hardship or strife in life the other person is having to cope with. It reminds me to not be mad at them for their action but to give them space and patience to vent or come to peace over whatever is going on in their lives but mostly not to add to their frustration.
Pam C., San Diego, CA