The ways that having children has encouraged me to grow as a person have been frequently unexpected. For the second time in the last few months, I picked up a stray. The first time was an injured hiker at Dismal Falls. He needed a ride to a nearby spot in order to meet up with friends who would get him home. Inviting a strange man into my car with my two young children was a nerve-wracking experience, but one I knew to be The Right Thing to Do. I opened the back of my car so he could put his pack inside, holding my breath and trusting my instincts that he was the good person he appeared to be. As we drove back down the gravel road to the small roadside store where he would meet his friends, I offered him apple slices from our morning snack, his first fresh fruit in weeks, and learned he was a college student from our own city, hundreds of miles away.
Today I saw a starving puppy sniffing around a busy corner in the rain as my kids and I pulled out of our neighborhood to run some errands. Instead of shaking my head and driving on, as I think I would have done in the past, I stopped the car. I hesitated. Dogs can be scary. But this one was so very thin, and I could see a tag hanging from his collar. No problem. Check his tag, call the owner, take him to our house until he could be picked up. But the tag was blank. Now what? As I squatted on the corner in the rain, wondering what to do, the dog crawled into my lap. So I picked him up, put in the car, and took him home. Because it was The Right Thing to Do, and my children are watching everything I do. They are learning, and so am I.