Do these daily life ethics tests find me, or do I look for them?
I think they look for us all. Some just can’t see them.
It was almost 11 PM here in Alexandria on a dark night, trying to rain. I was on the way home from an annoying 7-11 errand for my wife, knowing that upon my return, Spuds would need his last walk of the day. As I drove down a neighborhood side street, I saw a small indistinct figure ahead in my headlights: it was a dark and scruffy dog. He froze for second as my car slowed, then took off running into the darkness behind me.
I started to continue home, and saw a heavy-set middle aged man walking quickly in the same direction the dog had been running. On a hunch, I pulled over and rolled down my passenger side window.
“Was that your dog?” I called out to him.
“Yes!” he said.
“Do you need help?” I said.
“Yes!” he said again.
I parked my car by the curb , got out, and jogged after him. He told me his family was leaving on a Foreign Service assignment out of the country this weekend, and the dog, freaked out by the packing and commotion, had jumped the yard fence. A woman walking her own dog gave us two theories of where the escapee seemed to be heading. It is a dangerous area for dogs, with a busy street just a block away from where Duncan —that was his name–was last spotted, and a highway not far from that.
After looking for Duncan the Dog on foot and losing track of his owner, I decided to go back to my car and cruise around, hoping to see a running canine. After about ten minutes, it seemed hopeless. Now I was looking for the dog’s owner.
I found him! I pulled over and again rolled down the window. “Did you find him?” I asked.
“I did!” he replied. Then he went on and on about how grateful he was that I stopped to help him.
I accepted his thanks, but wouldn’t anybody do that? And if not, why not? This is the purest of Golden Rule situations, isn’t it? Wouldn’t anyone want to have a stranger offer to help in an emergency?
Or did he expect me to quiz him about who he was supporting in the election before deciding whether his dog was worth rescuing?
Based on the signs I see around the neighborhood, that wouldn’t be so far-fetched.