Thursday, July 21, 2016
The Way It's Supposed To Be
This is an extra little side post this week, because the news lately is nothing but awful, politics embarrassing, and the general mood of folks I run into is kind of low-energy. I feel it too. Without going into detail, I'm struggling more than a little bit these days. Things are piling up. I feel... un-good. And I know from experience that the best way to feel better is to make someone else feel better. It works every time.
I was out with Rick yesterday, after an urban hike to the rose garden, a shopping expedition, lunch, and finally a little food gathering for dinner. Even though there was nothing really wrong, and it had been a lovely day, I was feeling sort of anxious and icky, and I couldn't shake it. I tend to gather up and collect the general vibe of the world around me, so I don't think most of what I was feeling was "mine." I have my own little issues to be sure, but empathy can suck the life out of a girl.
We hopped on a busy streetcar, loaded down with bags, and clearly in the "elder" demographic compared to the rest of the people getting on. Rick was about to settle into an empty seat that was closest to him, when a young woman cut him off and slipped into the seat, oblivious to everyone around her. Her sense of entitlement flew around her like sparks. She was white. It shouldn't make a difference. But it's part of the story. I'll call her Uppity Princess.
As the streetcar started to roll, Rick found another seat, and motioned for me to take the one down the aisle. But just at that moment - and all this happened in about 15 seconds - the young man sitting behind Rick stood up, gave me his seat, and took the one farther away, just so I could sit by Rick. He glanced at the woman who cut Rick off, looked at me, shrugged, and shook his head in a WTF? sort of way. He was African American, which also shouldn't make a difference. I'll call him Nice Guy.
Common pre-conceptions would have us believe that the white lady would have better manners than the young man of color. Really? Many would trust her and fear him. Really? But in that instant, there was a flash of connection, of sweetness, of getting it between two humans, Nice Guy and me, just making our way home, and the color of our skin had nothing to do with it. Common courtesy and decency were what mattered. Gratitude mattered. Paying attention to something other than ourselves mattered.
As Nice Guy stood up to get off at his stop, I pulled a daisy out of the bunch I'd just bought, touched his arm to get his attention, and handed him the flower. He took it, thanked me, and turned away to leave. Then, just before jumping out into the world again, he turned back to me and said, "I almost broke a tear. Thank you. This is how it's supposed to be."
Yes it is. I smiled back, my eyes welled up, and my mood shifted for the better. I think maybe everyone who saw what happened was shifted a little bit. Maybe if we all did more of these tiny, spontaneous things, like offering a seat, saying thank you, smiling, giving daisies to strangers, maybe we'd all start feeling better enough to deflect all the not-good that's being fired at us daily. Maybe we'd create enough interpersonal goodness that our day to day lives would be easier and happier. Maybe we'd change the world. Maybe not. But at the very least, we'd make our own little part of it nicer to live in.