When cats get hit

Monday morning as I drove into Portland to attend seminary classes, I noticed a car pulled off on the side of the road.  As I drove by, the driver hurriedly got out of her car, and then I noticed it.  Lying a few feet in front of her tire was a cat, struggling to get to its feet.  It had obviously been hit accidentally by the driver.  I don’t know what ended up happening to that cat.  But I do know that for the remainder of the 45-minute drive, my heart was sick for that cat.  I pictured its owners who would likely find the news quite tragic.  I pictured my own kids and imagined their reaction if that had been one of our cats.

Even if you’re not a fan of cats, I doubt seriously you would laugh at such an accident.  I doubt that you would mutter that “it served the cat right” or “that cat was just a bum anyways”.  (If you’re really an avowed cat-hater, imagine the animal was a little puppy!)

And yet, isn’t that what we do with people?  Why is it that we can more easily show compassion and concern for cats and dogs, than we can people?  The problem is, I think, is that we start judging people and their decisions and choices in life.  I’ll be the first to not condone poor choices.  But haven’t we all made poor choices?  Why is it that I’m more willing to excuse away my poor choices, but that same choice becomes the very thing by which I condemn others?

Two quick examples.  What comes to mind when you see an individual sitting alongside the road with a cardboard sign, begging for money?  Now think about yourself.  How close have you been to being homeless at some point in your life?  Don’t be too quick to say “never”….

When we first moved to Glendive, we lived in the college dorms as we searched for a house to buy.  As the summer ended, and students were getting ready to move into the dorms, we needed to move out.  The only problem was we didn’t have anywhere to go.  We had bought a house, but it was such a mess, we had completely gutted it and were in the process of remodeling it.  It had no running water, no electricity, no bathrooms and no kitchen.  And yet, we had to move out of the college dorms.  We packed our belongings in boxes, not knowing when or where they’d be unpacked again.  It was literally down to hours before our family of ten (at that time) was about to be homeless.  In the end, we moved into a house my in-laws had purchased in town.  But what if we hadn’t had that social network in place?  What if they hadn’t purchased that house?  There was really very little difference at that moment between us, and a family who finds themselves on the street….

How about you?

Now picture a prisoner in jail.  And be honest with yourself to consider how you could just as easily be in their position.  Haven’t we all done things that could have landed us in jail?  But what do we tend to say?  “Oh, I was just young and stupid.”  “That was in my wild days.”  “I only did it once and then never again!”

But aren’t there people in jail right now who would admit the same thing?  What’s the difference, then?  Being caught?  You got lucky and they didn’t?  Being in the wrong place (or right place) at the wrong time (or the right time)?

It’s all to easy to create these “categories” in our minds of US and THEM.  In reality, we’re all the same – sinful, fallen humans.  I wonder what would happen in our world if we really saw ourselves and others through the same eyes.  I wonder what might happen if we were less concerned about passing judgments on others’ situations, and instead showed compassion?  I wonder how much brighter God’s light would shine if we treated others as made in the image of God, rather than focused on their fallenness.

But for the grace of God go I…