Survival of the Kindest
At work, someone had left some flyers encouraging those who could, to host foreign exchange students. This morning I overheard a couple of customers commenting on it. I won't repeat those comments here. Just imagine every tired, ignorant, racist, hateful cliché you've ever heard, and multiply it by ten.
It made me angry. Very angry. But, as I was on the clock, I was obliged to remain professional, so I said nothing. Instead, I gave them a look one might describe as reproachful. Actually, when I was a guest of the state, we referred to it as the "stinkeye". It was used sparingly, as it sometimes resulted in bloodletting. I was that angry.
So, the gauntlet thrown, I prepared for a confrontation. Nothing. Instead, they cast their eyes downward. They knew what they had said was wrong, and felt what I assume was shame. What would cause otherwise normal, intelligent men to act this way? Simply labeling them as evil or malicious doesn't answer it for me. The normal culprits are fear and ignorance. But even that answer is simplistic. Peer pressure perhaps? Maybe my own naiveté obscures the answer. I hope that's all it is.
Here's the other side. Later in the day, a lady bought $74.00 worth of groceries. I mis-keyed her credit card for $7.40. I didn't realize my mistake until she called me and told me. She gave me her credit card number, and I charged her the remaining amount. After thanking her profusely, I asked her about her honesty. Her only response was, "I didn't really think about it."
And so my faith in humanity continues for another day.
It's my hope that people like the lady who called me inherit the earth, because if it turns out to be people like those two men, I don't think we will survive as a people, a nation, or perhaps even a species.