At least once a month, I drive to Raleigh to meet a running partner turned good friend for a Saturday morning run and breakfast date. Gunner and Sophie, our German Shorthaired Pointers, tag along, and we usually swap gossip about people we don’t know in each other’s lives and talk about books and our favorite movies.
I treasure these mornings. My friend is 35 years older than me, and I always, always find wisdom in what she shares, validation that we never have it all figured out, and inspiration to still be running in my 60s.
As we wrapped up breakfast last week, I had Gunner’s leashed wrapped around my right arm while I had my hands full with my trash, my water bottle phone and keys.
Gunner is a good dog — a bit too friendly at times (like this mother) but a good dog. But as we approached the trash cans, I saw Gunner approach an older man holding a very panicked looking dog. I had a hold on him, but the sidewalk was littered with tables and chairs, so Gunner had room to go over there.
Usually, when Gunner approaches someone, I’m immediately met with “He’s such a beautiful dog” or my personal favorite “What a good boy!”
This man did not have the same reaction. Instead, he yelled at me to pull my dog back.
I was so shocked that I momentarily stopped moving because I couldn’t believe a stranger yelled directly about me…much less about my well-behaved, friendly dog.
I pulled Gunner back – hands still full – and informed the man that my dog was friendly, and I had a hold on him.
He yelled at me again. This time telling me that his dog would attack mine if it thought mine was getting too close.
I gained control of the situation, threw my trash away, and walked to my car to go on with my day. But I was so mad. I sat in my car in disbelief that someone at yelled at me, at my dog without letting me get two words in edgewise.
If I were a cartoon character, little squiggly lines and stars would have been circling me while red hatch marks adorned my face. Y’all…I almost let this stranger ruin my day.
I called Kevin and told him about it. I described the other dog as “scraggly ass” to my mother-in-law (like what does that even mean?!). But the longer I stewed over it, the more I couldn’t ignore that my reaction to the situation revealed more about me than I wanted to admit.
I wasn’t mad that the man yelled at me. I was embarrassed because he thought I couldn’t control my dog. And if I can’t control my dog, what else can I not control?
That realization was uglier than that other dog could ever be.
Because if I was willing to sacrifice a rare 65-degree, August morning to be mad at a stranger for thinking I didn’t have any business being in public with my dog, what would happen if I missed a deadline at work? What would I do if my future kids ever called someone a bad name at school even though they knew better? How would I respond if someone attacked my beliefs and opinions?
So while I’m not glad that man yelled at me or Gunner, I am thankful because that interaction is challenging my thought process and the way I view myself.
What if being right doesn’t always mean you’re a good person?
What if being nice doesn’t matter if you’re silently resenting someone on the inside?
What if we traded in being in control for extending grace to others? And what if we took it one step further and extended it to ourselves?