A Change of Perspective

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I ride a motorcycle. (here, here and here). Riding a motorcycle is not just a hobby or something I do on weekends. I ride to work nearly every day of the year. I also leave for work pretty early in the morning and I don't want the entire neighborhood to get up when I do, so I ease out as quietly as I can.

Sometime last winter something happened on my morning ride that I had almost forgotten about - until last week. I had gotten out of my neighborhood and was on the main road out of the housing development on my way to work. I was still taking it very easy and going slowly and quietly. A few blocks down there was an older man taking out his trash in the morning. He was a bit of a mess. He was wearing pajama bottoms, a white t-shirt tank and had messed up white hair. He looked up at me as I went by and then, for no reason I could determine, flipped me off. I was mildly peeved. I hadn't done anything to him. I was trying to be a good neighbor and quietly head to work in the morning - what I done to deserve such treatment from him?

For a while I wondered about him each morning when I passed his house. Did he hate motorcyclists? Was just a crazy old man? Did he hate everyone? Eventually, he just faded away out of memory - until last week.

Last week there was a major fire in his house. The house is a complete loss. I don't know what happened. Was it an accident or intentional? Was it a wiring problem? Did he fall asleep with a lit cigarette? I don't know. I don't even know if he was hurt or killed in the fire. I don't know if he had a wife or anyone else living in the house. Basically I don't know anything about him or his situation.

But the weird thing is that I noticed that my feelings about him changed. I went from wondering if he was a crazy old man to be concerned and hoping he's OK. I guess that's fairly normal. We often come to the aid of people when disaster strikes. We send aid to places where there's been floods, typhoons and earthquakes. We help our neighbors in times of need. And that's good. But what about when the need isn't quite so obvious or related to a disaster? Do we offer help when someone is a little down? Or when they are having a bit of a rough time? Or do we only notice there's an issue when things reach epic levels?

That's worth pondering about.

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