Sunday, November 13, 2016

America's Better Half

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” (Tenzin Gyatso, the Dalai Lama)

I don't know about you, but this week's been hard for me. Ever since writing this blog, 8 years ago (, till just very recently, I believed we live in a tolerant, loving, open-minded country. Not the best in the world, by any means, but striving daily to do better. The past year or so have come to prove me wrong, and it all culminated with this week.

I have read things people said, that I could not believe that they would actually happened. And then, there was the vote – which divides us like no time I remember before.

I am not going to belabor the point, here, because this is a hot topic and all of you have your own opinions that I know could not be changed. I just wanted to share a couple of experiences with you that happened to me this past Friday. I will just leave them here for you, and I just hope it will make you at least think …

I will make one more caveat: I usually do not mention race when I tell a story about people. But I think, given this week and the years to come, I will this time. Again – do with it as you wish.

I went through three experiences this Friday which reminded me of the human kindness that still exists. It is not a feeble, shy or unsure character trait in some people around us; it is loud, vibrant, clear, unconditional kindness. If we only are speaking low enough to be able to hear it.

I went to Target, first. I picked up a few things, among which a hand towel in the bathroom area. I did not realize this, but there was no tag on the towel. I came to the cash register, and this little older, white lady (she was easily in her early 70's and I kept thinking she should be home cradling grand kids or cats, not working the register at Target) asked me “ Ma'am, do you know how much this was?”. I didn't, and I felt horrible. I apologized and I told her to ring up everything else and keep the towel, and I'll go check, stand in line again and come back to pay for it. She stopped me and said: “Well, that's all right. How's $2 for it? Would that be a fair price?” My mouth just dropped. I said, knowing full well that there is no towel to be bought under $5 if you're lucky to find a sale, even at Target. I said, still shocked: “Sure, of course, $2 is more than fair. Are you sure you want to do that?”. She did not waver – she did not want me to go back and through all that trouble and she just gave it to me for $2. I was buying a lot of other things, up to $100, but still.

Then, I went by the mall. I have this medical bracelet that just broke – the metal just snapped, for no reason at all. I have been trying to find a jewelry shop to have them fix it, but no one would fix it, because it's just stainless steel, no gold and silver jeweler would take the time. But I have kept on trying. So, I go to the mall, and head toward Kay Jewelers. This Filipino young woman greets me and I show her the bracelet and ask her if it can be fixed. She examines it, like others before, and she says: “Well, to be honest, I don't know for sure if we can fix it or not. I would have to ship it to our goldsmith and then he's going to evaluate it, and then I'd have to call you and see if you want it fixed for the price he'll quote me, if he can fix it... sooo, I am just going to tell you 'no', we cannot fix it, because this is a LOT of trouble.” I gasped, with a sigh – nothing I haven't heard before. “But,” she says,”there is this jewelry repair shop by the food court right here in the mall, so it would be worth asking them if they can fix it, because they can fix anything.” I was so surprised and shocked at her kindness: evidently, I was not going to buy from her. I did not even ask her for alternatives, but she just came out and offered a solution pro bono-like, if you will. Kindness goes a long way, and now, that I felt so obligated, I want to go back and do buy something from her. I had no idea that the jewelry repair shop existed in the mall, if it were not for her.

So, off I went to the jewelry repair shop by the food court. This middle-aged, Middle Eastern man was running the store. He was chatting with this Indian woman about her kids, as he was taking in her jewelry to be repaired. After finishing up with her and her husband, he addressed me, all smiles. I showed him the bracelet and I asked him whether he can fix it. He looked at it carefully and he said he has no idea how a piece of steel can just snap like that. I assured him I could not figure that one out, either. He put the bracelet under a microscope and after assessing it for a minute or two, he said that, yes, he could laser weld it for $30, which will also include one year warranty. I was sold, of course. Then, the really kind part follows: “Ma'am, right now, we have a 10 day wait for work like this. But since this is a medical bracelet, I will try to get it done by Tuesday (that's about 3 days, if you're doing the math). Will that be all right?” Of course, it would be all right, and thank you, kind man, for noticing that it was a medical bracelet.

Random kindness is out there. It may be muted, closeted, shy, or it may be screaming out at the top of its lungs. We cannot label the content it comes in, we cannot be choosy about how it comes packaged. We can only be grateful that it exists at all, and reciprocate wholeheartedly. We owe these people that much.

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