Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Kindness and spitefulness

I am grieved. Really.
What is happening to our society?

I ride the bus everywhere because I don't drive. I have seen some wonderful things happen and some not so wonderful things happen. Yesterday, I got to see the two extremes manifested.

In the morning, our bus was running just a minute or two late. Sometimes, that minute or two can make the difference of making your connection and being on time to work, and missing your connection and being 40 minutes late to work.

As we pulled up to the main intersection, a woman asked our driver if he thought she would be able to catch the bus that was standing at the stop, since that was her bus. He said that he thought so and stopped just a little short so she could hurry over and catch her connection.

When she got to the door of the connecting bus, the driver had shut the door and, though he was standing still at a red light, he refused to let her on. Honestly! How hard would it have been to open that door and let that woman on? The bus wasn't full. She wasn't a trouble maker (at least not apparently so), but a businesswoman trying to get to work. The bus driver was just being spiteful. I don't know if he was having a bad morning, or what, but it made me so angry to see his complete disregard for her obvious and genuine distress. The bus that she needed would not come again for another 30 -40 minutes and, by that time, she was going to be late for work. But this anecdote is just that: an anecdote for the state of human affairs in this world. The inconsideration with which we all seem to treat one another is staggering. I even see it in my own behavior.

How often do we go through a line at a cash register and are barely polite to the person ringing us out. Do we ever stop to smile and genuinely wish them a good day? Or do we treat them, instead, like the wallpaper; ignoring them until we must say "plastic" or "paper"?

A few years ago, I decided that I was going to make a genuine effort to look people in the eye and smile at them and wish them a good day when they waited on me. Of course, I have bad days, when I snap at a clerk or a driver or someone. Then I feel horrible for days. Even if they deserved it. In fact, in recent months, I have gotten away from making the extra effort, totally. It boils down to this: Is their work worth any less than mine just because they are at McDonald's or Kroger at a check-out counter? No, there is dignity in all work. In God's eyes, my state in life is not elevated more than any other person's. We are all equal in His eyes. It all goes back to the Golden Rule. So, I try my best to treat people with the respect that I would expect from them. And, usually, they respond in kind.

Now, having said all that, in the evening as I was heading toward home, I ran into a different situation. Our bus was, again, running just a minute or two behind. There was a blind man on our bus who needed to catch a connection downtown and he was very worried that the driver would leave him. Our driver caught up to the connector at the second stop in the downtown and honked his horn to indicate that he had a passenger to transfer. Normally, the bus ahead will wait as the passenger runs to the front of the next bus. But, there was no way that the blind man was going to "run" up there. So, our driver took him by the arm and personally escorted him to the next bus.

He didn't have to do that, but he did. And that small kindness made all the difference to me.

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