I was out picking up some stuff, and I wanted a pretzel. I went into the mall and got one, (actually, I got a cup of pretzel bites, but I digress). I paid for my order, and the change was about 85 cents.
I waved it away, and unceremoniously dropped the coins into his hand. He accepted it gracefully, but his face told me he wasn’t used to accepting such charity. Not wanting to offend him, I turned and said, “Do something nice for someone else today.”
A smile broke out on his face. Few things in my life were as dazzling and warm and wonderful as this kid’s smile. It was like a rainbow after a storm. It was brilliant and beautiful and glorious. “I will.” he promised. Nodding and smiling, he disappeared as I entered the bookstore.
I searched for the word that would describe how I felt. I was drifting through a bookstore, surrounded by the works of authors great and small, and the feeling would not be named. The only one that even came close was “redeemed”. Not because I had done something so wonderful, nor was it because I was in such dire need of redemption. It was simply that I felt humanity, in that one small moment, had lived up to its potential. One person reached out to another and found what they needed and more without a moment’s hesitation. Paid for with a smile, and that was more than enough to cover the tab.
In that moment I realized that there is hope for us. Hope for humanity.
I'm not trying to arrogantly assume that my daily antics could or should be a model for anyone else's life. I don't assume to be a role model or an example of virtue in any form. But, I can't deny the unplanned humanity that young man and I shared in that singular moment. It wasn't scripted. Neither of us had time to think about how these actions would benefit us or prove anything.
It was real. It was genuine. I was lucky to have been a part of it.