An Example of Empathy

My apartment building has a roof access.  It’s a three story building in a low part of the city, and you can’t see the ocean from the roof, but you can see over plenty of rooftops.

The roof is decked. It’s nice.  It would be lovely to bring a guest or two up there on a warm day for a picnic of sorts, I keep thinking.  Maybe we can even dance there, if the gaps between the deck boards are not too wide.

One winter evening, I got home from work and found a letter from the management on the apartment door (other apartments got letters as well).  The letter advised the residents that they shouldn’t be taking the dogs up to the roof to do the dog business.  What?!  There’s dog poop and pee all over the nice roof??!

Naturally, I felt outraged.  What kind of terrible person takes a dog to the roof to poop?!  And why on earth???  The street is perfectly safe and has plenty of trees and fire hydrants.  The roof is windier than the street, so it’s not like it’s more comfortable.
Months have passed.  There were no more letters from the management about dogs on the roof.

One Friday evening in the spring, I went to the roof to see what it was like nowadays.

It was no longer just an empty deck.  Somebody brought up an old tall table and a few bar stools.

By the table, sat a friendly couple, about my age.  I run into them by the building entrance, when I come and go late, and they take their dog out for a walk.  I see the guy more often; his short hair is all salt and pepper.  The dog’s funny uneven hair is all salt chunk and peppercorn patches. He is probably a rescue dog.

Now the couple was on the roof, taking it easy on a Friday evening.  They were having a glass of beer each.  They were bundled up: it was windy.  The dog was there too, exploring; his drinking bowl was sitting next to the table.  The humans smiled and waved at me.  I smiled back and said hello.  The dog was too chill and busy exploring to acknowledge.  I learn a lesson.  There are no terrible people.  Just the friendly people sharing each other’s company and a drink on the nice roof, and maybe occasionally neglecting to pick up after the dog.

empathy (noun)

the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

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