The Compassionate Heart

Compassion has a way of sneaking through the cracks and getting past the guards at the gate of our closed hearts.

It was a typical Thursday afternoon for him. He ate lunch, ran to the gym, and was headed back to work. It had been a busy morning with lots of customers and problems and work to do. He had enjoyed the brief break. On the way back, his mind raced ahead to what he had left to do; it raced in circles over problems with his girlfriend; and his mind grumbled over his life in general. He felt annoyed and impatient; his heart felt hardened. Life just wasn’t going his way, it seemed.

He cruised through a wealthy neighborhood — one with large homes and expensive cars parked in front. People strolled on the sidewalk as he made his way through. The old trees that lined the sidewalk made you feel you were in a special paradise, one reserved only for a few. But he liked to drive through there every day; it was a peaceful section of town.

As he approached the last block, he saw something in the street, something small and brown. He strained to see what it was, only to discover a dog that had been hit and was now laying in the road, bleeding profusely. Instinctively and without thought, he pulled into a driveway of a house for sale and got out. He felt drawn to the little dog, and when he got closer, he could see that she was gone. Several cars came and went, with people peering through windows to see what was going on. First, a Mercedes passed, slowing only long enough to get past him. Then, a BMW came behind and beeped its horn.

“Get out of the way,” someone yelled from a partially cracked window.

He barely noticed them, as he couldn’t take his eyes off this little dog. She had no collar. And no one seemed to be at the scene. He wondered, where was the driver who hit her? Another car slowed down. A well-dressed lady got out.

“Is this your dog?” she asked.

“No, she’s not,” he answered in a low voice.

“Well, someone needs to get a shovel and get this dog off our street!” she yelled as she slammed her door and drove off.

He was overcome with the emotion of seeing the dog’s tiny body, all broken and bent and bleeding. And he started to cry. The tears that flowed came rushing down his face, and he was unable to stop them. Suddenly, he knew what to do. He remembered the bedspread he had put in the car that morning to take to the dry cleaners and raced as fast as he could to get it. Time was of the essence, as he didn’t want another car to hit her. He hurried to her side and gently, ever so gently, picked her body up and laid it in the bedspread, carefully wrapping her up. He glanced at the pool of blood still on the street and shuddered. He prayed that she had not suffered. More expensive cars swerved around him, hurrying to their destinations, and honking their horns for him to move.

He was surprised at how heavy she felt, for she was so small. He opened his trunk, thinking he would place her there but couldn’t bring himself to do it. It just seemed so cold and uncaring. So he did the only thing he knew to do: he climbed in the driver’s seat and let her rest in his lap. It was quiet in the car with just the two of them. He could feel how warm her body still was. More tears spilled onto the blanket. He knew he couldn’t go back to work. Not like this. Not with her. He called in, explained his situation, and promised he would get in early the next morning to catch up on his work.

Though it was getting late in the afternoon, he headed off to the pet cremation company, a business he had known about in his childhood. He and his mom had made several trips there with their beloved animals. And this was no different. For in the blink of an eye, he had fallen completely in love with this little dog no one seemed to care about, and his hardened heart had cracked wide open.

He talked to her as he drove, telling her how sorry he was that it had happened, telling her that he loved her, telling her he would come back for her ashes. Halfway there he realized he had to give her a name. Immediately, the name “Kate” came to him. He wasn’t sure why the name was so strong or so quick in coming; he just knew that was it.

“I will call you Kate,” he said out loud to her.

When he arrived, the pet cremation folks asked him to bring her in. He picked her up, her body still warm, her blood all over his shirt and arms. They carefully took her from him, and he watched until she was out of sight. Only then did he head for the bathroom to wash up. When he returned, he filled out the paperwork, signed his name as owner, and got in the car for the slow journey back home.

It was a long, lonely ride without Kate. He knew she was better off now, and he knew he would be forever changed. She had done that for him. The tears that flowed had opened the portal to his heart, one that had been shut for quite some time. In the briefest of encounters, he had experienced true compassion for a being he didn’t know and a love that knows no boundaries.

Kate’s death offered an opening that broke him open and set his heart and soul free.

True compassion seems to be rare these days as we race through our daily lives, hardly noticing what’s going on around us. It is even rarer when it comes to actually interrupting our lives to help another. But compassion has a way of sneaking through the cracks and getting past the guards at the gate of our closed hearts. Kate’s death offered an opening that broke him open and set his heart and soul free. It was a healing gift — one given from her with unconditional love to a being she didn’t even know. And it was that final gift that set her soul free as well.

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