Helping Others

It was a quiet night at the clinic when the dog came in, trembling with shock, with most its femur snapped clean in two and sticking out like a broken bone in a comic strip. The vet techs assessed the dog in the backseat first, noting numerous lacerations, the dog’s protruding eye, and a host of other injuries, the kind of things which tend to happen when a dog is hit by a car.

The dog was rushed through the waiting room and into surgery while the family milled around, wondering how much it would cost, and eventually the vet came out to give them an update, and to talk about decisions.

Hard decisions have to get made a lot in veterinary hospitals, and the family conferred for a moment, and then said “yes, do whatever it takes, just save the dog,” and the vet suggested that they go home, because the dog would be in surgery for hours, and they did.

The man who was waiting quietly for something in the corner stepped up to the check-in desk after the family left, and asked the receptionist if the dog would survive. “Probably,” was the answer, and the man wondered how much everything would cost, and “a lot” was the answer, and he pushed his credit card across the counter and said “I’ll pay their bill.”

The man was probably thinking about the little girl’s shoes, so worn that her socks poked through, and the boy’s oft-mended pants, the man’s stooped back and the women’s worried face. He was thinking about their beater car and the heavy laborer’s boots the man wore.

“Don’t tell them,” he said, “who I am. Just tell them it’s taken care of.”

And it was, and the man paid his credit card bill without comment when it came.

Paying other people’s vet bills doesn’t seem like an obvious way to help save the environment, but it’s all about the bigger picture here. Helping others, I believe, helps save the environment, because it’s a reminder that we’re all in here together. And you don’t need to run up a multi-thousand dollar credit card bill to do it. Helping others can be painless, and free, and sometimes very easy, and sometimes you can even help the environment while you help others.

One of the biggest problems with the modern “green” movement is the steadfast refusal to accept that people from a broad range of backgrounds and social classes live on this Earth. And an act of mercy, or charity, or simple goodness can go a long way. “Practice random acts of kindness,” the bumper sticker says, and it’s a motto to live by, because if we are kind to each other, it reminds us to be kind to the Earth.

In case you’re wondering, the above story is, in fact, true. It took place in the veterinary clinic I worked for in the summers during high school. The dog underwent multiple surgeries, including a surgery by a canine orthopedic specialist to save the leg, and survived to live a long and healthy life. The clinic respected the donor’s request to remain anonymous, although the family did send him a thank you card, care of the clinic; I don’t think they ever even saw the final bill.