Seven years ago, maybe more, when Ferdi first came into our life, when he looked like this (ie. freaking adorable), we lived in an apartment in Potts Point. I'd always had dogs, and those dogs had always slept wherever they wanted, even if that meant my bed. But my husband hadn't had a dog since he was a kid, and he was of the view that dogs should sleep on their own. So we put Ferdi to bed in the laundry, then headed upstairs to try and get some sleep.
He was just a little puppy, so he cried. Oh man, did he cry. All, night, long. But there were two solid doors between us and his cries, so we managed to block it out, mostly.
He'll learn soon enough, we thought.*
What we hadn't realised was that there was only a thin wall between Ferdi's night time spot and our poor neighbours, so whilst we could tune the cries out they were pretty much stuck with them. We hadn't been living in the apartment all that long, so we really didn't know our neighbours. But we had kept them awake with puppy howls. For a week. Not good.
They could have written an angry, abusive note. They could have made a complaint to our landlord, or to the council. But instead they came and knocked on our door one day with a big fluffy soft toy. They said they'd heard a puppy crying, and they thought it might provide some comfort. I was horribly apologetic of course, and embarrassed, but I was also incredibly touched. Wasn't it the nicest, kindest, most thoughtful approach ever?
I've been thinking a lot about this recently - the kindness of almost strangers. I don't know about you but I'm in the midst of a pretty teary fortnight, and not all of it can be blamed on hormones. I adore social media, I really do. It connects me to all kinds of people all over the world. But it also connects me to the tragic, unfair, horrible, nasty, inexplicable and just plain sad things that can happen to those people.
Lately it seems every time I check Facebook or Twitter I end up shedding tears over the death of someone's dog, or grandma, or dear friend. I hold my breath as a domestic tragedy unfolds, or a health scare freezes a family in their tracks. Not to mention the relentlessly depressing news - the treatment of refugees, the funding cuts, the arrogance of those in power.
And then I tear up again when I see the online community, this community of almost strangers, band together to offer their love and support, and hope, and passion. (Good lord I am getting sentimental in my old age. Cynical teenager me would be horrified right now. But not activist pre-teen me, she'd be cheering.)
There's so many people doing so many thoughtful things, big and small. There are people making awesome stuff so they can raise money for things they care about, there are people organising donations of gorgeous handmade things for kids who really need them, there are people putting out their bats. There's the friend who gave her postie a bucket of homegrown broad beans (and who got a thank you note scrawled on her mail the next day, complete with recipe). And there's the online community creating a special secret surprise for someone who is going through a pretty tough time right now. There's fellow dachshund
obsessed loving people, helping each other out. There's my Mum, banding together with other Grandmas to do this.
There is so much kindness out there, it's humbling. And it reminds me - it's a choice we make, to be kind and thoughtful and generous, in whatever way we can. It's a choice to ignore the cynics and do something, however small, even when we are feeling distant and helpless. So, what do you choose?
*In the end we caved and now both dogs take up more room on the bed than we ever do, but that's another story.