When Strangers Give You Hope
Small acts, multiplied by millions, can change the world.
It was a typical chilly December evening in Texas, about 14 years ago. I was making my way home after picking up my five kids from their various locations of after school activities. We had moved thirty miles outside of the City a few months prior, after my husband was laid off, and we couldn't afford the in-City rent prices anymore. We were lucky enough to find a rather large home on an acre of land that was mostly within our now one income budget.
The typical drive home was usually enjoyable. The kids would fill me in on their daily happenings. We would joke and laugh. They never knew the entire time I was keeping an eye on that lit "check engine" light and silently praying that Betsy, my beat up, but paid off, Mercury Cougar, got us home.
The shorter winter days meant it was dark by the time we arrived home. My husband was actively looking for work, but had dinner on the table for us every single night. I turned the corner to enter the long narrow dirt road that led up to the place we now called home.
As I reached the house, my headlights met with something in the driveway. I couldn't make it out at first, but quickly realized it was the family dog, our black chow-chow, Chewy. We kept him inside, only letting him out to do his business, so my first thought was my husband had just let him out.
That thought swiftly left my mind however, as I got closer. He wouldn't move. He stood squarely in the middle of the driveway, completely still, like a statue. The headlights were now beaming directly on his body and I could see blood dripping from his fur.
My 12 year old son, who had scored getting to sit in the front seat that day, jumped out of the car and ran to him. The move to the country had been particularly hard on my son. He was having a difficult time making new friends and adapting to his new school. Chewy was his support, his comfort, and his best friend.
I threw the car in park and joined my son, who was now cradling our dog. Even with the typical thick chow chow coat, I could see Chewy's neck was visibly swollen.
My son carried Chewy into the house and I unloaded the kids. Once inside, we assessed his injuries. He needed a vet. It was after hours though, so our local vet's office was closed. The nearest emergency vet was back in the City, where I had just came from, so my son and I were back on the road.
When we arrived at the emergency clinic, they took Chewy right away to be examined. We sat in the lobby, for what seemed like hours. My son sitting next to me, trying to stay strong, but every now and then I would see a stray tear roll down his face. People came and went with their various animals, with different needs. Finally, they called us to the back.
"Your dog was bit by a rattlesnake, a rather large one. We will need to keep him here. He will need anti-venom, antibiotics and possibly a blood transfusion"
My son let the tears flow freely then, as did I.
How in the world would I possibly be able to pay for this? I didn't know, but I had to do whatever it took to save Chewy.
The vet estimated the cost to be around $500.00. I agreed to whatever treatment he needed, and I would figure out the money part later. We gave Chewy a good bye kiss, hoping that the next time we would see him he would be the bouncy, loving, playful dog that he was yesterday.
At the reception desk I asked about a payment plan, "I'm sorry full payment is due at the time of service".
"Okay, I will just write a check, payday is only a few days away, hopefully the money will be in the account before it clears.", I thought to myself.
"I'm sorry, your check is coming back declined".
Dang it. Again.
Oh yeah, I still had that check I wrote for groceries last week to pay for.
"Ma'am, if you can't pay for services at the time they are rendered, you are going to have to take your animal home."
Take my animal home? How is that even an option? The vet told us if we had waited until morning, Chewy would not have made it through the night.
My son was in full blown hysteria mode at this point. Begging the lady to "please save Chewy!"
I tried to be reasonable with her at first, but seeing the pain in my son, that reasoning went out the window and I lashed out at her. "How can you live with yourselves, breaking a child's heart like this?"
I knew it wasn't her fault, but I had to place the blame on someone. I couldn't be satisfied yelling at life.
The lady was like stone, showing no emotions. She went to the back and returned carrying our black ball of fluff. She placed him in my son's shaking arms.
The ride home was difficult.
My son had his body draped over Chewy, who sat on his lap. Their heads pressed together.
Silence and sobs, as I wiped away my own tears to see the road, on this starless night.
I pulled into the driveway, for the second time that day. This time I was met by my husband, who came running out to the car.
"Turn around!" he yelled, "Go back to the vet, the receptionist called and said that someone over heard you in the lobby and has paid the vet bill!"
What?! Really?! Are you serious?!
Hope was instantly restored in my son as I see the first smile I've seen in hours appear on his face!
I sped back to the vet, where Chewy ended up staying for the next several days getting the medications he needed. I asked for information on who made this overly generous donation, but they wished to remain anonymous. They simply said to tell me "Merry Christmas".
That night made a huge impact on my life. We've all been taught it's better to give than to receive, and although It's taken me many years to get to the point in life where I am able to be the giver, I now do so, freely and often.
I only hope that I am impacting other people's lives as much as this stranger impacted mine. Turning hopeless into hopeful.