Yesterday I went through the drive through of a local fast-food restaurant. I gave my order at the menu board and then proceeded in an orderly fashion to the first window. Paid. Waited for the person in front of me to have his bag handed through to him. And his drink. And his extra packets of sauce. And a few napkins. And some ketchup. Finally he was done and I eased up to the second window, taking care not to bonk the big metal safety poles with my side mirror. When you’re 5’2″ and driving a huge Ford Expedition, it can be difficult to tell when you are close to a wall or a barrier or something. Not that I’m a bad driver. Just, you know, a small person in a tank is dangerous. Consider yourself warned. Anyway, I pulled up and the young man, um, manning the window smiled at me and I smiled back, cause, you know, he’s handing me food. He must have been taken aback by the fact that I said “thank you” not once but twice when he was taking my order, and he remarked that it was nice to see someone come through the drive through with a cheerful demeanor. For me, it was easy. The weather has finally broken and the snow is melting, the birds are singing, the sun is shining, and all that spring stuff. Even the fact that I lost an hour due to daylight savings time could not bring me down. We ended our transaction with a friendly goodbye and I felt good for making someone else feel good.
We need more of that in the world. See, we have endless little social micro-transactions every day. You see someone for ten seconds at the coffee station at Wa Wa. You pay the cashier. You nod to the person pumping gas next to you. You give a little wave passing a car in the neighborhood. You acknowledge another person’s humanity. You don’t know him or her. You don’t know if he’s a Christian or a Wiccan, a Democrat or Republican, and you don’t need to know. He’s not marrying your daughter or going into business with you. You just have this tiny moment in time where you are occupying space next to each other. But because you are a civilized person, because your Mama raised you right, because the teachings of your faith or education instilled certain values in you, you smile. You wave. You nod. You say with your gesture, “I value you as a human being”.
It’s more important nowadays than ever. There is so much incivility and downright hatred that we have to fight back however we can, in big ways and in small ways. Not everyone can march at Selma. Everyone can pick up keys dropped by a mom with her hands full. Everyone can wipe the dribbles at the coffee station. Everyone can let the guy with one item go ahead of them at the grocery store. Everyone can smile at the woman whose kid is having a meltdown and offer to carry her groceries. Everyone can do something. And that little something you do can turn a person’s day around, restore his faith in humanity, keep him going. For you it’s a small gesture – for someone else, it’s the world.