I've been doing some thinking lately, dangerous, I know, and remembered an incident that happened several years ago. I was volunteering in an animal shelter, at the time, and a woman came in with 15 cats that she wanted to drop off. This particular woman had made quite a few similar trips to the shelter, by that time, and everyone who worked or volunteered there had come to loathe the sight of her.
Why? Good question. The answer is very simple. It was because she had no idea what she was doing and, what was worse, she didn't care. It was very clear to all of the shelter employees and volunteers that this woman could not have cared less what the effect of her actions was.
What was that effect? Another good question! For several weeks, the woman had brought carloads of cats to the shelter. She had been trapping these cats from various areas around the county. Many, if not most, of the cats were "feral." Which meant that they were afraid of people and would react defensively if approached. Kitties who are that frightened of people are generally not adoptable. Animals that are not considered adoptable are euthanized by most shelters.
So for weeks, this woman had been consigning dozens of cats to death. Why was she doing this? Were the cats on her property or causing a problem for her? No. In fact, in order to catch the cats, she had been searching out the places where they lived and trapping them.
Just because an animal acts untamed in a shelter environment, doesn't mean that they don't have a home and a family who loves them. It might just be fear that makes them act unfriendly. This was demonstrated by the fact that not all the cats the woman brought in were strays. Several of them had microchips and were reunited with their owners. Some of the cats' owners came looking for their missing pets and found them in a cage waiting for their execution. Of course, more of the kitties might have been owned by someone, but without microchips or collars and tags with contact information or someone stepping forward to claim them, their owners were never found.
So why was she doing this? She had decided, all on her own, that there was a "cat problem" in the area, and she was going to "clean it up." To her, the cats weren't living, feeling, thinking creatures. They were vermin. And vermin should be exterminated.
What really drove home the fact that this woman had absolutely no conception of the fact that she was sentencing multiple living creatures to death was what happened on the day that reminded me of this whole situation. I had been volunteering in the back of the shelter, cleaning out cages and feeding the animals, when she came into the room with the cats. She had never done that before. Looking around at all of the full cages, she put her hands on her hips and gave me a smug, satisfied look. Then she opened her mouth and one of the most heartless things I've ever heard crossed her lips. She said, "Wow. They really are all the same, aren't they? At least, they aren't out making a mess, anymore." Then she turned around and walked out.
I'm not a violent person, generally speaking. For the most part, I abhor violence and believe that the best way to change people's behavior is to persuade them with logic and reason to make the change themselves. But, on that particular occasion, it took every ounce of my self-control to keep from taking the handle of the broom I was holding and beating the woman senseless!
It was only later that I was able to calm down and realize that the woman thought she was doing a good thing. In her mind, she was performing a public service and solving a problem. She was wrong. And she was also ignorant, arrogant, and presumptuous. But she wasn't evil. The woman hadn't set out with the intention of doing something terrible. Her failing wasn't in her intentions, it was in her deciding she didn't need to consult anyone else before taking action that affected other people.
She didn't ask the property owners where the cats were located if they wanted her to trap the cats on their property. She didn't ask the shelter staff or animal control officers if what she was doing would be helpful. She didn't do adequate research to find humane alternatives to mass executions. And, her absolute worst sin, she refused to listen when anyone tried to tell her that what she was doing was causing a problem. But, from her point of view, she was doing something that needed to be done. From her point of view, she was helping.
When I finally realized that, I was able to let go of most of my anger, if not all of my frustration. I also realized that there was a lesson in there for me. Everyone has a point of view, but not all points of view are equally valid all the time.
Sometimes they are. When what you're dealing with is a matter of opinion, then it's possible that it would be appropriate to lend equal weight to all perspectives. But if what you're dealing with is something that affects others and is dependent on factors that you might not fully understand, then it might be a good thing for you to defer to those with more knowledge of and experience in the matter.
Not everyone can be an expert in everything, and that's okay. But it behooves those of us who are not experts to listen to those who are. I try to remember that when I find myself in a disagreement over an issue that comes down to point of view. It never hurts to ask myself, is mine the correct point of view?