– Henry Ford
We cuss others as we drive. We fuss about our fellow shoppers in stores. We snap at our co-workers. And we recommend our elected officials for punishments both unusual and cruel.
Most days we forget that people are nice to us, too.
They let us pull into their line of traffic. They smile when we accidently bump their grocery cart. They slip misdelivered mail back into our mailboxes and leave, anonymous with nothing gained.
I offer three cases from three recent days.
First, I was in a parking lot where I had just pulled my car keys from a coat pocket when I noticed a guy trotting over.
“Hey,” he said, “this fell out of your pocket.” He bent down and picked up a folded $20 that was to be my lunch money for the week.
“Thanks,” I said.
He waved it off, got in his truck and drove away. I have no idea who he was.
Next week, different parking lot and it’s raining. Not hard, but steady enough that most people had umbrellas. A young woman approached as I walked to my vehicle.
“Is this your car?” she asked
I said it was.
“Well,” she said, “I just saw another car back into it. I think they hit it pretty good. I wrote down their license number.”
She handed me a scrap of an envelope with a Louisiana tag number on it. “In case the damage is bad,” she explained from beneath a rain hood.
Then she left, probably twice as wet as she would have been if she hadn’t been waiting for me.
And finally this. A few nights ago, I got a phone call from the grocery store.
“Mr. Kirby,” the pleasant voice asked, “did you happen to get home without a grocery bag of pancake mix and vegetable oil?’
I checked, because I remembered putting it in my overloaded Senior Discount Day cart, but not unloading it when I got home an hour before. I quickly searched.
“You’re right,” I said. “I don’t have it. I’ll be there in five minutes.”
I went back to the store and picked up my bag at customer service. Then I asked how they knew it was mine, and this is what they told me.
Another shopper, the one behind me in line, had driven home, unloaded her groceries and found a bag of items she had not purchased.
Instead of just putting it on her own shelf, or throwing it out, she got in her car, drove back to the store and told them it wasn’t hers.
She also suggested it probably belonged to the guy who checked out in front of her – the older man who was telling jokes.
The cashier looked in her drawer, found a check with my name and phone number on it and called.
I was impressed.
There were at least three people involved who could have just said, “Forget it. Just a box of pancake mix and cooking oil.” But they didn’t. One even spent time and gas money driving back to the store to return it, hoping it would get to the right person.
In the grand scheme of things this might not seem like much, maybe none of these things do.
But, you know, on some days it’s enough to remind you we’re not as bad as we think.