by Joanie Butman
While walking to a doctor’s appointment in the city Monday, I witnessed a blind man's service dog taking a huge poop right in the middle of the busy sidewalk. The man was clearly confused as to why the dog suddenly stopped. Curious, he bent down to pet him. I suppose by the way the dog was leaning, he determined the cause of the delay. As I passed, I heard him talking to the dog. “I know what you're doing. Why do you always do this to me?” I continued walking but started wondering how he was going to pick up that mess without being able to see it. It’s not something you want to be feeling around for on a busy New York sidewalk – or anywhere for that matter. When I looked back and saw him fumbling for a bag, I knew what I had to do.
I can’t really tell you why I chose to turn around and go back. Pooper scooper has never been an ambition of mine. I can’t believe someone actually made a business out of it. In fact, I’m not even particularly fond of animals so I was the least likely Good Samaritan in this circumstance. Regardless, I asked him if he needed help, which he gratefully accepted. He emptied a bag of recent purchases, and I went to work. All I can say is, you can’t stoop down to clean up someone else’s mess without a healthy dose of grace coursing through you. So why would I choose to do this? Because someone did it for me. Think about it. Isn't that what Christ does for each of us?
The owner was hilarious as he matter-of-factly explained that his dog is a “drive-by sh&tter, he thinks he's a horse!” I laughed all the way to my appointment, which, I believe, was the purpose of this encounter. God’s sense of humor lightening a heavy heart. Who else could take a pile of SH&T and use it to soothe an anxious soul? As I walked away chuckling, I heard the owner chastising the dog once again for embarrassing him. I never considered that particular challenge for those who use service dogs. Just as an aside, the man informed me that dealing with this issue is an important part of a service dog’s training. Clearly, his dog missed that class.
A true but silly story. I guess that familiar expression is accurate: "You just can’t make this sh&t up!" No, you really can't. The incident got me thinking about the “drive-by sh&tters” we all come across in our lives from time to time. Sometimes, maybe it’s us. As my friend commented, “Aren't we all periodically? I know I have a tendency to ‘dump my junk’ on whomever is in my path when needing to unload.” Most of us (if we’re honest) can relate to her comment and have been guilty of not curbing ourselves on occasion, which is normal.
The chronic “drive-by sh&tters” are people who habitually leave a trail of human detritus in their wake. You all know them. The ones that make a mess then expect someone else to come along and clean it up – perpetual teenagers, but it’s not messy rooms they leave behind but messy lives. And it never seems to be their fault. They can always point the blame elsewhere – a popular tactic these days in so many arenas.
I'll give you an example, trivial for sure but indicative of a bigger issue. There is a park near my home where I walk frequently. It is a popular place for people to bring their pets. In order to encourage owners to choose to “Do the Right Thing,” the town provides a dispenser with “doggie bags” instructing them to clean up after their dogs. What astounds me (beyond the fact that they have to be reminded to do the right thing) is the pile of full bags dumped directly under that sign along with the expectation that it is someone else’s responsibility to dispose of it. This is a perfect illustration of the epidemic I see today. Who do they think is going to clean up this pile of you-know-what? My point is, if we can’t clean up our own backyards, what hope do we have for cleaning up the messes in our community, our country, our world? Will the legacy we choose to leave the next generation be a heap of dung for them to clean up?
Here’s a novel idea. If everyone took responsibility for their own choices and the messes they create, wouldn’t the world be a better place in every aspect?