Thursday, December 8, 2011

A bit of rodent decency

Sometimes I feel a discouraged about this world and all of the injustice in it.  And then I come across something inspiring, something that makes the world seem a little brighter and a little kinder.  Today is one of those days.

I came across an article proposing that rats are empathic.  Scientists have shown that rats help each other out in a bind.  They trapped one rat in a tiny cylinder that could only be opened from the outside and put a free mouse in the cage to see what happened.  The free mouse fretted and fussed until they figured out how to open up the cylinder and release their friend.  Not only did the mouse persist in freeing his trapped friend, they celebrated together once he succeeded.  Pretty cool.

How often do I stop to help strangers?  Sometimes I fall short from the high bar established by rodents.  My spouse and I were recently at a gas station filling our tank when a man with an empty gas can came up.  He explained that he had run out of gas and needed a few bucks for gas.  I was immediately suspicious, but my spouse said, "Bring it over and I'll fill it up."  They poor stranded guy filled up the can, walked away to the truck stuck a quarter mile down the street, and we went on our way.  I wondered, though, how long he'd been there.  How many people had he asked for help.  And was he really out of gas or looking for a handout? (My skepticism gets the better of me at times).

Yet less than a week later, my spouse and I found ourselves in a similar situation, only on the other side of the fence.  We blew out a tire on a busy highway Sunday afternoon.  We could have changed the tire, had we had a car jack.  We didn't.  After about twenty cars zoomed by, someone stopped.  It was an older gentleman and his wife.  He stayed for fifteen minutes while we changed the tire and insisted we keep the car jack in case we needed it.  What an incredible guy.  I want to believe that people, and rats, are good at their core, that we want to help people out in a bind.  And every time my belief in human decency is confirmed, I breathe a tiny sigh of relief.

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