While I was hiking today, my car was broken into. The passenger window was shattered; the thief rifled through my glove compartment and stole my checkbook. When I got back from my trek, I was confronted with a big mess of broken glass. It's surprising how upsetting this small violation can be.
Here's the thing: one nasty individual did a bad thing. But a half-dozen people had a chance to be really lovely.
First: As I was returning to my car, a couple stopped me. They'd seen the car in the trailhead lot, noted the smashed window, guessed it belonged to me, and wanted to prepare me. "Call the sheriff," they said, which actually might not have occurred to me otherwise. (Another pile of glass on the scene tells me someone else was broken into and drove away without calling the police.)
Second: A woman pulled into the lot just as I arrived: she was there to meet her husband who was finishing up his own hike. This couple held my dog as I frantically called the police, keeping said dog from jumping into the car and injuring her paws on the glass. The woman in particular looked so stricken: "This happened to me last year, I was so upset. It's so awful. I'm so sorry for you." They stayed until I made them go.
Third: Another group of hikers returned to their (intact) car while I was waiting for the police, and clucked compassionately. The lead hiker was a local who seemed to have two visitors along for the ride. He explained that this was a weirdly high-crime area, out here in the middle of nowhere; lots of break-ins, many needles found in the lot. (I hike here frequently, and haven't seen needles, but one morning I did find a baby bottle next to a Jack Daniels bottle.) This crew lingered as well, petting my dog and offering sympathy, before they drove off.
Finally: The policeman who finally arrived at the scene decided the first order of business was getting water into my dog. By then dog & I had been waiting for him for 45 minutes, and he must have guessed she was hot and thirsty. He got out of his car, walked toward me, saw dog, doubled back to his car, and got a bottle of water for her. We didn't even address the window issue until she'd had enough to drink. (I didn't tell him, but I'd actually saved my own remaining water for her and had been giving her some every 10 minutes or so. She still appreciated the bottle.)
So the upshot is this: although some jerk did something bad to me, the overall lesson is that people are pretty awesome. Also: take a dog with you wherever you go. It brings out the best in everyone.