I live on a fairly busy intersection with a constant mix of people, bikes, cars, and heavy construction equipment. I looked out the window the other day and saw a small animal in the middle of that intersection, weaving from one corner to the other and back out into the middle. Some cars were braking, others were just swerving to avoid hitting it. It wouldn’t be long before it would be killed. I went out there to see what I could do. It turned out to be a little dog, oblivious to the traffic. I met him at one of the corners and approached. He was very friendly and let me pick him up and carry him home. He had no collar or tags. I wasn’t able to stay home just then, so I put up a Found Dog post on our local server and called the cops to come pick him up.
I felt good about what I’d done. And I was concerned for that dog all day, wondering if his humans had found him. I even considered going to the dog pound and offering to keep him for the night (our pound is small and poorly supervised). After dinner a man came to my door. He was very angry. He was holding the dog in his arms and complained forcefully about having to pay to get his dog out of the pound. I was stunned. This man lives on my street, but I didn’t recognize this dog. I apologized that I didn’t know the dog belonged to him. I tried to explain that his dog had been in great danger. But he would hear none of it. He grimaced and stomped away. I yelled “You’re welcome!” at his retreating back.
I thought I had done a good thing. I had continued to care about the dog even after I gave him up. But then I had been emotionally attacked for doing that! I couldn’t believe it. I began second-guessing my own behavior and motives. Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten involved. In a half hour the man returned, without the dog. I was afraid. But then he apologized to me! He said he’d had a bad day at work, and the story he’d heard from the cops did not include the danger in the intersection. He forgave me, I forgave him, and we ended up shaking hands and agreeing to be Good Neighbors.
What a roller coaster of ego drama that all was! I had been patting myself on the back for doing Good. Then I got overly involved in the outcome of my action. Then someone who had benefited from my action tried to convince me I was Bad. I wondered if they were right. Then the other person showed courage and humility. Geez.
In the end, he and I both let go of our egos and met each other in a good place.