I. The Situation
G. B. and I attended a July 4th Firework and Flower Garden Party in Greenville. When we walked in, big boxes of fireworks were stacked from the hearth to the mantel of the fireplace. After grilling and watching city fireworks from a distance, it was finally time to watch our host’s firework tricks. While two scared dogs hid in a bedroom, the rest of us gathered (probably too close to the launching pad) in the front yard.
Early in the impressive show, a woman none of us knew staggered into the yard, drink in hand, and announced herself loudly to the crowd as a neighbor. She did so with speech just loose enough that everyone shared grins to confirm that she would be an interesting visitor. The woman then told us that this was her twins’ ninth birthday but that they weren’t home. Someone in our crowd pointed out that we were expecting twins, and the visitor shouted a congratulations though she couldn’t pinpoint whether we or the couple beside us were the parents. As a hearty welcome, a friend raised her own drink and said, “Cheers!”
“Chhheeeers!” the visitor bellowed.
Then the whole party raised our drinks and said “Cheers!” with some chuckles as the fireworks started up again.
Later in the party, while I consoled my terrified dog in a quieter back room, the visitor walked in. Seeing her face in the light for the first time, I noticed she was glassy-eyed. “I don’t usually drink like this,” she explained with much effort, “but I just sent my kids to Pennsylvania for the first time to be with their dad for a couple weeks. They’re my whole world. What am I going to do without them?” It was then that my fears shifted to What is this uninhibited stranger going to say or do next? to a real concern–What will she do without her children?
Although I was unsure of the extent of it, my visitor was clearly in a state of depression. To be heard, she sought a house full of strangers. Realizing the morbid things this woman might do in a drunken sadness, I suddenly needed to be a friend instead of a stranger.
So I listened in the best way I knew how. I put myself in BFF Mode and genuinely cared and asked real questions like some of my best friends do. After some convincing, we agreed that she would survive her children’s absence by doing something she hadn’t had time for in years; she would read a book.
II. The Concept
A month ago, I posted this status on Facebook:
Instead of starting a new blog, I opened a new category here on Tree of Grace called “Where’s the Poop?” (Any How I Met Your Mother Fans out there?) This is my first post under said category.
III. The Poop
I have read my share of articles titled “[Insert Number] Photos That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity” and admittedly demolished a box of tissues because of them. These are beautiful articles, and I am thankful for people who want to breed positivity on social media websites.
So, where’s the poop? To end our conversation, the visitor thanked me for being nice enough to listen. She said there weren’t many nice people left in the world. The way the visitor said how nice I was didn’t make me feel good. Her comment that nice people were a rarity made me ache as much with its truth as its untruth. Yes, humanity is terrifying, but it’s also, somehow, sublime.
The poop is that I, and perhaps many of us, click on a link to boost our view of humanity rather than collect in our memories how many positive things we see humans do right in front of us. This woman’s doubt of people made me wonder how many passersby had overlooked her situation and how many people I overlook. It also made me wonder how many nice things happened close by that the woman hadn’t seen and how many kind acts or words I had also brushed off as trite thus giving up an opportunity to restore my faith in the people around me.
As a result, I decided to recall all the good things people whom I actually knew had done in that very same day instead of resorting to strangers on my newsfeed like my visitor resorted to strangers at a firework show.
Kindnesses on July 4th, 2014:
- My brother-and-sister-in-law left a key for me so that I could nap at their house between holiday activities. This pregnant lady was in need of rest!
- Parents of a one-year-old gave me baby gear they were no longer using, even a bassinet!
- Our friend and host of the party went out of his way to invite the aforementioned neighbor whom he’d never met to the party.
- When two large dogs escaped their backyard, some of the partiers held them for nearly an hour to keep them out of the busy road. Later, the owners drove by and saw their dogs. They parked desperately in the middle of the road and thanked us exceedingly, scooping the big pups into their arms and loading them into their car with hugs and kisses.
Many of us see nice people in person often if not daily. The poop: doubt in humanity may be due to our mindset more than reality. What kindnesses have you seen recently? How are you restoring someone’s faith in humanity in person?