Bloggers are generous people.
One of the things that never fails to kick my blood pressure through the ceiling is reading a “comment” that complains that the blogger’s new post isn’t quite what the reader “wanted.”
A lot of horse people write about our happy experiences with our horses right along with the not-so-happy. We talk about problems with equipment, we bitch about the weather, we whine about how hard it is to keep the Russian olives in the pasture, we wonder for the 3,000th time whether we should even have horses at all.
We wear our hearts on our proverbial sleeves, and we let you take a peek for free. Call it stupid, call it what you will–but the one thing you can’t call it is selfish. I think one could make the case that all horse owners are generous people–we certainly don’t keep horses around because they’re a good financial investment. Ahem.
Mugwump’s been posting about Natural Horsemanship lately, and some of the comments on her blog have been jaw-droppingly rude…everything from complaining about the topic du jour to more personal attacks.(Fortunately, Mugs is quite capable of coming up with amazing coffee-snorted-out-the-nose troll retorts.)
Anyway, she brought up something this week that I’ve been thinking about ever since I read her post. She noted that back in her day, everyone knew someone who had a horse who was willing to share a little expertise with the noob rider. She mentioned how everyone from the vet to her farrier to people she rode with helped her learn what she needed to know to become a better rider and keep better care of her horse.
Now, it seems, the world is full of people who have to pay clinicians and trainers in order to get that advice. I have absolutely no problem with people who are in the horse business to make money–more power to ’em. But I think the lack of community spirit–a willingness to help out our fellow woman–applies to a lot more than the horse world.
Back when I was a kid, the neighborhood parents weren’t afraid of hollering at the kids on the street if they saw we were doing something dangerous or stupid. My parents knew that the Reiners two doors down wouldn’t be allowing us to watch R-rated horror movies in their rec room on Saturday afternoon, and they trusted the other parents to tattle on us if we’d really screwed up.Our families swapped plates of Christmas cookies and garden produce. We stopped to talk if we ran into each other on walks.
Once when I was a newly-licensed driver, my accelerator got stuck (which, needless to say, scared the holy Moses out of me). I had to stomp on the brakes to prevent the car from lurching out into an intersection, and (with surprising presence of mind) I brutally threw the gearshift into park. Someone immediately stopped to help me–even though the guy had no idea who I was, he was able to calm me down (over the screaming engine) and fix the problem.
We call helping at accidents “being a good Samaritan,” but accidents (fortunately) aren’t a daily occurrence. Isn’t sharing our knowledge also being a good Samaritan? What about taking the time to offer someone the gift of a kind word?
Late last quarter, I was making my usual pit stop before the 75-mile slog home. I always use the same bathroom on campus at the same time, so I wind up seeing a lot of the same faces. On this particular day, I could hear someone in the stall next to mine. It took a minute for me to figure out that the weird noises I was hearing were muffled sobs.
The sobs continued while I washed my hands. I debated. Had I seen this girl before? I couldn’t see anything but her shoes.
I thought about how much I had been looking forward to getting to the barn early to feed the horses–the weather was windy and cold, and I hate feeding in the dark.
I told myself that it was probably just a student who hadn’t done well on a final. Then I thought about the students I’ve had who’ve had problems a zillion times worse than a bad grade. I thought about what it would be like to try to console someone who was crying because they didn’t want to go home to an abusive boyfriend, or what it would be like to try to comfort someone who was crying because she’d lost her best friend to a drug habit.
I ended up telling myself that the sobbing girl wanted privacy, or she wouldn’t be locked in the bathroom in the first place. And so I dried my hands and left.
The truth is that what I really wanted to do was clear my throat and say, “Hey, are you OK…?” But I was too embarrassed to break through that invisible wall that seems to have sprung up around all of us these days.
I ask my mass media students if they’re comfortable with the idea of living life in the virtual world–sitting in a box in front of another box (just like I’m doing right now, in fact). The classroom is always full of head-shaking when I ask that question, but I know that in a couple of minutes I’ll see another five kids sneaking looks at their smartphones.
If we don’t break through those walls–if we don’t take the time to be generous–won’t we be leaving some of our humanity behind? I can’t help but wonder what that is going to mean for our horses, too.