I believe in kindness.
I believe in living for others.
I believe that every person-- even the mean and nasty -- is deep down an image of God, and deserves my kindness.
And, therefore, I believe that it is as important to be as kind to strangers as it is to be kind to those I know and love.
I know that many, if not most, people agree with this. But none of those people were in the parking lot at the Greenwood Chik-Fil-A on Tuesday night.
As some of you know, when Clay is out of the country, I can depend on something dramatic happening. A blizzard, a broken air conditioner, perhaps even a call from the police. (Twice.)
This time, it was car trouble. To condense a really complex story, I drove to Indianapolis on Tuesday to visit a sweet little friend in the hospital. On the way home, I stopped at Chik-Fil-A because it's delicious. Unfortunately, as I was paying at the drive-through window, I saw my temperature gauge spike. I immediately pulled in to a parking spot, turned off the car and then listened while fluids boiled under the hood -- a true "fire burn and cauldron bubble" moment. Luckily, Clay was up and on his way to breakfast in China, and talked me through -- I was a little nervous and at that point, was certain that this would involve a tow truck.
Everything was blazing hot -- even the hood of the car was too hot to try to open for about 10 minutes. When the hood was finally up, it was almost another 1/2 hour before the radiator cap was cool enough to touch, even with a rag. This gave me plenty of time to clean out my car, go into the restaurant for a pitcher of water and consider all the people who stared at me and my open-hooded car and never offered to help.
Perhaps it was my intimidating appearance. This 51-year-old, blonde, Birkenstock-shod, cross-wearing grandma could have looked like a serial killer, I guess. Perhaps it was my intimidating ride: a soft gold 2000 Chrysler Town and Country van with 180,000 miles and a Life is Good sticker in the back window. Perhaps it was the time of day: 7:30 PM, which in Indiana in July could be considered broad daylight. Perhaps it was the area -- Chik-Fil-A. Right outside the Meier. Across from the Target and Steinmart. Just down from the Starbucks. Scary.
Now, I had great automotive and emotional help on the phone, and I knew what I had to do to get my car running -- I didn't really need anyone to come to my rescue (although I had warned Maggie that she and Nate might have to come up and get me if indeed I had a hole in a hose or something unfixable). But the fact that no one even offered as much as a kind word just makes me sad.
Having grown up in the country, where everyone waves at everyone else and where folks will stop you on the road to be sure you are OK even if you're just out walking your dog, I just don't understand why not one of the many people who saw me in that parking lot asked if I needed assistance. But I do have a message for the man who was parked right across from me and watched me as I was pouring water in the radiator and he was strapping his two little girls into their car seats: Sometime in the future, one of your girls is going to be all by herself and need a little help (I don't wish that on them, it just happens to everyone). Can you imagine how sad you would be if no one offered to help your daughter change her tire or find her lost dog or pour water into her radiator? Trust me, you'd be really sad (and probably pissed) if someone like you didn't at least stick his head out his window as he was getting ready to drive away and say, "Hey, can I call someone for you?" That would have been the kind thing to do, daddy-o, and the kind of thing you would want someone else to do for your sweet girls.
Oh, I don't believe kindness is dead -- I see it every day. We teach it in kindergarten. We live it out here in Smalltown, USA. But maybe we're all just going too fast and have gotten out of the habit of looking out for each other. I hereby give you permission to give me a swift kick in the butt if I ever get too self-absorbed to notice others' small needs or too busy to share a small kindness. Just a little kindness keeps the world from being a sad and lonely place; I can attest to this, because Tuesday night in that parking lot, I felt very sad and very alone.
PS FYI, I made it home just fine. Just in case, I bought 2 gallons of water at the Meier, drove without the AC and kept watch on the temperature gauge. The hour drive seemed a lot longer than usual, and it was a huge relief to be in my own driveway.