A quick glance at the current news articles confirms anyone's guess that there are people in this world whose greed for money and power and special interest is making other people miserable in uncountable ways. But what about the everyday kindnesses of ordinary people to one another? That doesn't make the headlines nor, perhaps, does it change history. But maybe the overall effects afforded by those smallest acts serves as a balance to all the rest, one that has prevented civilization from totally collasping, so far anyway.
About ten years ago, I started needing to walk with a cane (just one, then!) and I was concerned about other people's reactions: would strangers stare at me with curiosity or pity? would I get pushed down the stairs as abler others hurried past? As it turned out, other people, "perfect strangers," as the saying goes, have been extremely kind to me. People don't stare, but they often notice and then offer to hold doors, carry packages, step wide to make room, and so on. I have been both amazed and gratified by the ordinary acts of everyday people.
Let me offer an illustration. In the last six months or so, grocery shopping has become something of a challenge to David and me. We go once a week because we have done it that way for a long time: it's efficient in terms of time spent, meal planning, and gasoline usage. But even for only two people,and the occasional dinner guest, a week's worth can be a fair amount of groceries, and some of the items are heavy or awkward. I use one of those electric carts and David pushes a regular shopping cart. It holds more than the basket in the cart and gives him some stability to help with the out-of-balance and motor coordination problems of Parkinson's Disease. When we get to the checkout, he goes first and I am right behind with a few things in my basket as well. Sometimes, he forgets to go ahead of the cart for unloading. Then he's trapped because the aisle is too narrow, and maybe I can't back up to give him more room because there are other shoppers behind me.
So here comes the young bagger guy, probably half a century younger than David. He actually looks up and sees the problem. He sees us as people, not just old people, or just as more customers to wade through until his shift is up -- but as real people. And he comes over immediately and starts to unload the cart for us. He asks if we'd like help loading into the car. He waits until I get from the cart into the driver's seat and returns the cart for us. We exchange a little small talk about the weather and thank him. Both sides wish the other a good evening. It seems small perhaps, as an effort on his part, but it's an enormous help and relief to both of us.
And so I offer an appreciation, to all the everyday people whose names I don't know, who may not remember me or my circumstances, tthose who provide other such kindnesses to people other than myself, in lots of different places far and wide -- but to all of whom I am grateful. And I think it must really represent a great mass of kindness over all, over all the world, and its importance should not be discounted for a moment. Thanks!