A Random Act of Kindness
I was standing in line at the bookstore, loaded for bear. With three new books on psychology and three new murder mysteries [often even better psychology textbooks than the 'real McCoy', if the writers are good and you know how to read them], I was looking forward to some lovely lazy learning evenings.
Once I got out of this line.
The corollary of Murphy's Law that deals with waiting in line usually dictates that the speed with which you pass through any checkout process will vary inversely with the number of other things you need to accomplish, the urgency with which you need to accomplish them, and the intensity of your desire to begone.
Except for anything to be accomplished which requires a bathroom; in that case, it becomes an inverse-square law.
The line plodded forward one notch, and I recalculated my hydrostatic pressure tolerances. It plodded forward another notch. Two people remaining in front of me; if one person at the registers paid cash, I'd be escaping in just a few moments.
Then he showed up.
A quiet man, past middle age, with an academic slouch and a remarkably calm facial expression. Horn rimmed glasses. Pocket protector. Quiet young girl, likely his daughter, walking with him.
He joined the end of the line, then looked startled, then looked speculative, then started moving up alongside everyone.
People glared at him. Arranged their elbows to impede his progress. "Excuse me", he said softly, and brushed past them. Slowly, methodically moving to the front of the line, looking at each of us as he passed.
He reached me. "O Lord, again?" I thought. There is a sign on my back, and lo, it is also written on my forehead: Ask Reasonably, And I Will Probably Let You In Line In Front Of Me. Little old ladies with one roll of toilet paper, kids with Tootsie Pops, harried moms with birthday sheet cakes, harried dads with big bouquets of flowers. Yes, yes, yes. And you too, yes, and also you. Enter into the glory, go in peace.
But oh, I was feeling the ... pressure. "O Lord, does this have to happen now?"
He stopped. He smiled. Warm brown eyes looked into mine. His hand rose, holding a piece of paper. His other hand held a single volume.
"Excuse me... "
"Of course," I said and moved back half a step. I wouldn't die, I wouldn't disgrace myself, and it wasn't as though people cut in on me daily at the bookstore. I'd live, and I'd like myself better than if I snarled and refused this small decent act.
"We have two of these, and you have the most books of anyone in line here. It's 20% off. We can't use both of them... Enjoy!"
And he handed me the paper. And smiled. And stepped back, and smiled again, and returned to the end of the line, where his daughter held his place, also smiling... as I called my startled thanks to them, and the cashier called to me.
96% of human beings are capable of love. This evening, two human beings demonstrated that some are also capable of kindness... even to total strangers.