Published 6/15/2008
by Eddy Robey M.A.
  Issue: 9.06
The Tow Truck
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Neighborhoods have all sorts of people. In any area you will find folks who are nice, those who barely interact at all, even the occasional bad neighbor.

Happy neighbors are the heart of anyplace. They're easy to spot, waving hello to others, and stopping for a bit of conversation before going on their way. You will sometimes see them carrying a covered dish to another home, and may notice others stopping by their homes for a while. At twilight, you will often see two or three of them on the sidewalk exchanging a pleasant word about the weather, or perhaps a hint for pruning a particular plant.

The saddest folks are the insulated ones, yet they too are quite visible. Just watch them walking their dogs, whilst talking into cell phones, not even allowing for the possibility of interaction. Whenever the power goes out, they are the ones standing alone, arms akimbo, wondering about what's going on, but not engaging in conversation about the common problem. In an emergency, they only call 911 or a relative across town, rather than getting immediate help from next door.

Then, alas, there are bad neighbors: the ones with messy yards, barking dogs, or who give parties which disturb the peace. The rest of us shake our heads over the problem, stay away, and hope they will move. It is east to see them as community nuisances, rather than people.

This brings me to an incident last week, when I had taken Wagsy the Chihuahua out for his midday constitutional. At the corner of our street was a very large flatbed tow truck. The driver was busy attaching chains to a pickup truck, a procedure which seemed to fascinate Wagsy, so we stood a moment to watch.

Of course, I was curious, and wondered to whom the vehicle belonged. It wasn't difficult to tell. Just behind the truck to be towed stood a tall man with naked pain on his face. He stared in obvious misery at the proceedings, occasionally looking down at a piece of paper in his hands.

My heart went out to him in sympathy, as I watched. No, I didn't say a thing, just sent a silent wish of good will. Although this sad event was taking place in public, it was not the time for a chat.

A moment later, the tow operator finished the hookup, and went to start his truck. The owner hung his head, and started slowly home. It was then I realized it was my bad neighbor. I tried to harden my heart, but was unable to do so. Although this was someone unpleasant, I found myself praying for his well-being during my stroll home.

No, this is not someone with whom I would wish to be acquainted; the neighborhood grievances against him are too great. However, for a brief moment, I was able to see past those, and into our common humanity. It was an important event.

This week, his truck was back home. I do not know why it was taken, or whether that was deserved. It doesn't matter. When someone is in pain, that is the only thing of consequence. We must pray for their relief. Compassion is a gift to the world, and we are all poorer, should we fail to feel it.

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