The Dark Van.

Sometimes Dave and I like to run together early in the morning before he heads to work. We have a route we do that goes from our house, across a small highway, through a Home Depot parking lot, past a hotel that is under construction, through a park and then back home. If we run before the sun comes up, we often see a dark SUV with its lights on parked in the middle of a stretch of roadway between the Home Depot and the hotel. That vehicle has spooked us at times, as we normally would not see a person. Just a car. And that seemed odd in the early morning hours. We would move past it with a heightened awareness, concerned about what might be happening and confused that this car appeared at this spot numerous times with no apparent explanation. Well, today we learned why.

We decided later in the morning to go for a short run. On our way back, along this same stretch, we saw the same SUV, this time parked in the daylight. A woman got out of the car and carried a bucket with her into the field between the store and the hotel. I could not make sense of what she was doing and was planning to run by minding my own business, but Dave wanted to say hello, so he did.

What he learned was that every morning, this woman drives around town for about three hours feeding a number of cats that live in our community. She takes them to be neutered and spayed when she can, and she feeds them regularly, including ones she called Mint and Daniel in the field between the hotel and Home Depot. Usually, she feeds Mint and Daniel at 5:30 in the morning, but today she was running late, which is how we got to talk to her. By being his curious and friendly self, Dave learned for us that the car we encounter in the dark is nothing to be afraid of. It’s just Linda making her rounds to take care of the animals. She is not with an organization. It’s not her job. It’s just a thing she does because she wants to and because she cares about the cats that roam and have no home.

As we finished our run home, Dave and I talked about how this chance encounter taught us something. There was nothing nefarious about the vehicle we have seen in the dark on multiple occasions. There was no reason to walk past it with heightened awareness. Quite this opposite. This woman was doing a really kind thing out of the goodness of her heart. We just did not understand what she was doing. Our brains had not even begun to imagine the goodness of it.

I want to keep this in mind the next time I’m alarmed by the unknown or the unfamiliar. I want to be smart, of course, and safe. But I also want to be fair and even generous in how I look at people I encounter on this journey. I want to see the goodness in the world. I want to see and know more people like Linda who are doing unexpected and beautiful things just because they can.

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