There are times when my judgments of humans and of the destruction we have caused on the planet are all I can see of our crazy species. When we moved here we heard horror stories about some of the neighbors. Those telling me the horror stories were people who do not speak Spanish have not been able to have a conversation with our many Hispanic neighbors. I took their descriptions to heart and made assumptions about many of our neighbors who have recently moved here from Mexico.
One neighbor has many animals....from goats to dogs to chickens.
One of their dogs adopted us as soon as we got here and hasn't left. Another one of their dogs is a huge white Malamute who has been tied for a few years on a short chain with no shelter and often no water. I called animal control recently and they came out to check on the dog. They gave the family two days to provide water, a longer chain and a shelter. A pitiful A frame made of old plywood appeared in the hole the dog has worn out with his chain over the many days of pacing. Then as I went out skiing yesterday, I noticed that even that pitiful shelter was gone. I was prepared to contact animal control again as I was skiing back toward home. But, what I saw surprised me. They had replaced the A frame shelter with a large strong dog house that is up off the wet ground. I saw a man near the dog house and we talked a bit about skiing and about the dog house. This is not an evil man who keeps goats in a pen and a dog on a chain. This is a really nice guy who is doing what he knows. He had never thought about the dog having needs. Today there is also a big blanket out there for the dog. It was such a good lesson for me in not judging. It is quick and easy to judge someone who does not care for the animals in their care like I would like them to. It is easy to assume that the rumors spoken by other neighbors are true. It takes longer to get to know this person and slowly plant seeds about another way to view and care for all living beings. It takes longer to be friends with him and his family first and then share our ideas.
When we moved here there were more stories about another neighbor up the hill from us. People who have lived here for years have not ever had a conversation with him because he and his family speak Spanish. I went and talked to this neighbor about crossing his land to get to the public land. He was kind and easy to talk with and gladly gave us permission to cross his land. Now I am looking out my office window at his grandchildren sledding down their steep driveway with their three dogs chasing the sled and climbing back up with the kids. This scene is a far cry from how these neighbors were represented by others when we moved here. OK, these are the same neighbors who throw their trash out the window as they drive along. And, yes, many of our other neighbors do the same. But, culturally this is not taboo for them. These are people who get up in the morning and do their best with what they know. Just like me. Just like you. They have blind spots when it comes to mindful living and so do you and so do I.
I am reminded of how impossible it is to really know another person or another species if we don't share their language and culture. Somehow, I can easily assume the best about other species. I don't have big judgments about them. I am living here for a reason. I am living surrounded by people who's culture is, in many ways, very different from mine. I want to find that same caring and openness that I have for other species, for these neighbors. Once again surrounded by my teachers.