It’s true there are a lot of jerks out there. They cut in line. They tailgate. They yell obscenities. They don’t acknowledge you when you hold the door for them. They don’t say hello or thank you at their cash register or service counter.
And that’s the minor stuff inflicted on strangers. Yet that is the stuff that can bring us down and ruin hours or even days, especially when feeling stressed out like often happens while traveling.
Yesterday, as I was making my way to DC on the train, I was exquisitely tuned into the opposite phenomenon: acts of kindness and humanity in strangers. Here’s what I observed:
- A large group, waiting patiently in line, not crowding each other
- A gate agent going out of her way to help out-of-towners
- Travelers volunteering helpful information to those that seem confused or lost
- Strangers smiling at other people’s children
- Parents making sure their own children have their needs met
- A parent teaching his teenage son to give up his seat for female passengers
- An offer to help me with my bag when the escalator wasn’t working
- Passengers seated by an out-of-order restroom informing others when they approach
- Someone asking to make sure I wasn’t injured when my bag fell over
- My seat companion sharing with me her love and pride in her children
Granted, all of the above are small stuff too. But those small gestures of humanity, kindness and generosity of spirit are everywhere. They demonstrate our unseen but tangible connection with each other that so many people create so naturally.
Sometimes I am resistant to feeling that connection with others because I’m pretty shy. It’s easier to stay caught up in my head or my cell phone than to allow these micro-connections to be made or observed. By being open to seeing or receiving such gestures of connection, I am inspired to seek connections too.
Being open to these beautiful, small gestures, I feel a great sense of hope, pride and affinity for my fellow man. What could’ve felt like a disaster – late train, late night, turned into a gift.