This is not a political post unless empathy and kindness are political constructs. And its not a post about religion, I respect anyone rights to believe in whatever they want, as long as it does not bring harm others. To quote Henry David Thoreau*, “Everyone has to believe in something, I believe I’ll go canoeing.” Rather, this blog is about humanity and civility and kindness, all of which seem to be lost in our current political climate, but I know still exist, they are just overshadowed by hate speech, divisiveness, Twitter rage and Facebook rants.
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines humanity as: 1: the quality or state of being human and 2: the quality or state of being kind to other people or to animals. And it defines civility as: formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech. It does not say only be kind to a certain subset of people with like characteristics or beliefs as you, nor does it bound when we should be civil, although there is a time and place for civil disobedience, namely when our society is being inhumane.
Sorry for the digression, I wanted to level set everyone on some fundamental concepts, now back to why I give donuts (and coffee) to strangers. I live, quite honestly, in a fairly upscale neighborhood. The houses are palatial, the cars are luxurious and new, the lawns are huge and well landscaped, and most people have lawn services that mow their lawns and put up their Christmas lights, (that is sacrilege by the way for a boy from Kentucky). Taking care of your lawn is not just a civic duty (or HOA responsibility), it’s about pride in owning land and a home, the foundations of the American dream. Some might say the people living in my neighborhood are privileged, but I don’t know that. They could have been born into money, or they could have earned it the old-fashioned way like I did, by hard work. Over the past few years many of my neighbors have had their roofs replaced and I observed that almost all of the roofers were of Hispanic origin. And as I strolled by walking my dog their dialect was mostly Spanish. This is dangerous and thankless work, (the roofs are steep, the sun blazing hot, and the pay low), and I thought where would we be without these tireless laborers, with leaky roofs I guess.
So fast forward to this Winter and a broadband company is installing fiber optic cable in my neighborhood, (goodbye Spectrum!). Early winter is beginning to arrive and most days its cold, wet and blustery. I expect to see Piglet blowing by at any moment. And once again all of the workers are Hispanic and the work is cold, muddy and thankless, but they forge on every day like a modern-day chain gang, just without physical chains. The workers are literally digging ditches in the mud by hand and pulling the fiber cable through plastic pipes and I am thinking “we don’t have technology or equipment that can do this more efficiently?” After a few days of observing their slow progress I feel compelled to show a bit of gratitude so on one particular cold morning I bring hot coffee out to all of the workers. I wander amongst them offering coffee and I am pretty sure many of them don’t speak a word of English, but they do speak coffee and all thankfully accepted a cup, and paused for a moment to enjoy its warmth. The following weekend they are still digging away in the mud so I ran to Kroger and picked up a dozen donuts, and I distributed them to the workers, (minus the one that jumped out of the box into my hand). One of the younger workers looked puzzled at first, then he saw what I was offering and took one. A couple of them say thank you in broken English and one points to a co-worker who I missed so I stroll over and give him one. There are a couple donuts left over so I place them on their truck and get back in my car and drive away. As I do I see smiles on their faces, and one gives me a thumbs up and I nod my head. Some may wonder why I bothered to do this, but honestly it wasn’t really that much. Their lives weren’t drastically altered. I did not provide them healthcare, or an education, or a car or rent payment, or their Green card. But it wasn’t about the coffee and donuts, it was about respecting them for their hard work and providing them a little bit of dignity, and acknowledging that although I am relatively rich, I am no better. We are all equal in God’s eyes, or so I have read. It reminds me of the Abraham Lincoln quote, “When I do good I feel good, when I do bad I feel bad, and that’s my religion.” I think Abraham Lincoln was right, I did feel good for this small act of kindness, even if I knew it wasn’t life altering for them. There are lots of people doing small and large acts of kindness every day, like the many people helping the tornado victims in Western Kentucky, or my sister and the many Red Cross volunteers helping people devastated by the hurricanes in Louisiana. But these acts of small and large kindness are overshadowed by the increasing hatred and uncivil discourse in our society. We Americans need to remember our roots and our values, we are mostly a nation of immigrants who at one time were huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Let’s be kind, civil and caring to all races, sexes, colors and creeds.
I recently saw a Facebook meme which showed someone holding up a sign that said, “I love you. You’re probably thinking, you don’t even know me. But if people can hate for no reason I can love for no reason too.” I think if Jesus Christ were with us today he would echo that sentiment. So, this holiday season, buy a stranger a donut or cup of coffee or some warm clothes, or whatever, and love them for no reason. You will feel good, and they will too. And the world will be a better place.
*There are some people who said this quote is misattributed to Henry David Thoreau, but as Abraham Lincoln once said, don’t believe everything you read on the internet