I don’t think I’m understating things when I say the world seems to be full of shitty people. I am an introvert, and I live in a large metropolitan area. It makes me wonder if I notice more of the general crappiness of humanity because there is so darn much of it here. Maybe the whole introvert thing makes me more sensitive than I would like. Or, maybe it’s a combination of both of those things. I’m not sure, and I don’t think I care enough to puzzle through my feelings at this moment.
The point is this: The place where I live grates on me. There are so many people here, and every single one of them is out for Number One. There is always someone protesting … or tailgating in heavy traffic … or honking at you if you don’t move quickly enough … or taking up their space out of the middle of life, just because it’s most convenient for them … or yelling their opinion in your face, whether you want to hear it or not … or telling you what a horrible person you are if you don’t agree with them … or judging you for the way you look, or talk, or dress.
Online isn’t much better. If anything, it’s more of a jungle. The Left hates the Right. The Right hates the Left. Both sides wish everyone from the other side would die a horrible and painful death, and they don’t mind saying so — loudly and with prejudice — at every turn. Oh, and those opinions? Yeah. They are everywhere on the internet. Even here, in this blog. Yeah … I recognize I’m being slightly hypocritical here. I am sitting here, typing away about my own opinions on life and other things. Although, in my defense, I’m not trying to force anyone to agree with me. And I’m not yelling at them (literally or figuratively) for having a different opinion from mine.
It can be easy to fall prey to the gloom and sadness and overwhelming ICK of it all. Life feels like a slog. It’s easy to feel isolated and just … well, sad. Sometimes, I stop and wonder if I’m the last sane person in a jungle full of Crazy and Angry. If you knew me at all, you would realize how ridiculous it is to think of me being the last sane person in any sort of jungle … or forest … or slightly overgrown meadow, for that matter. Sometimes, I find myself wondering whether there are any Good People out there, hidden somewhere amongst the insults and anger and hate and yelling.
Last week, my daughter and I were on the way to her school. We had to drop off a form, and we were running late, as usual. Traffic was horrible, as usual. Traffic is always horrible around here. To get to her school, we have to travel down a busy road. It’s one of the most-used streets in our area, and is four lanes at some points and six at others. This road is always packed with traffic and with angry, speeding, honking, road-raging drivers. Always. And this particular day was no exception.
As we approached the intersection of our street with another busy, six-lane street, I realized traffic was crawling at a near standstill. And, as we got closer, it was easy to see the cause. A blind man had, somehow, wandered out into the street. He was two lanes away from the sidewalk, tapping the street with his cane, and weaving a path among the cars, all of which had (of course) come to a stop for him. I have no idea why or how he ended up there. Maybe he was unfamiliar with the area and became disoriented, thinking he was on the sidewalk but ending up on the street, instead. It was shocking and terrifying.
I felt my heart go out to this man in that instant. I felt so afraid for him, watching him weave in and out of traffic. His taps of the cane against the street seemed rather frantic, and I’m sure it was terrifying for him to hear the noises around him and to smell the smoke and exhaust from the cars. Maybe I’m putting too much of my own emotion into the incident. But, I know that’s how I would feel. I wanted to do something to help him, but I was in the far lane of traffic, which was still moving (at a pace slower than a snail’s crawl) past the spot. There was nowhere for me to pull over, and I couldn’t leave my daughter sitting in a car in traffic.
I decided I would turn around, find a place to pull over, and return to help. But would I be able to get back there in time? As I glanced into my rear view mirror to check on the blind man’s progress, I saw someone from a nearby business run out into the street. I could only spare a moment’s glance, but I saw this second man make his way into traffic, gently touch the blind man’s shoulder, and lead him back toward the sidewalk. It was small and simple and, yet, so incredibly heroic. And it reminded me that I’m not alone. There are a lot of Good People out there. Maybe they are hard to find sometimes, in amongst the shouting and anger and angst. But they are out there, being kind and quietly heroic.
Sometimes, the smallest gesture can make a huge difference. For the blind man, the second person’s gesture was, of course, huge. It was life-saving. It doesn’t get much bigger than that. But the second man’s gesture saved my life, too, in a smaller way. Even though I was just a passing observer, it touched me in a way I find hard to explain. Two strangers touched my life that day. The first reminded me how important it is for me to continue to look past myself and my own wants and needs, which can be hard in the face of the world in which we live. And the second … the second one restored my faith. It doesn’t get much bigger than that, either.