Shining jewels: More than just pocket change

January, 2019 Posted in Columnists & Opinion

carl-sampsonIt was 16 cents, but what it meant to me was worth a lot more.

I was at the convenience store the other day, buying a pint – of 2 percent milk, that is. I buy milk almost every day to have with lunch.

When the cashier asked for $1.39 I came up short. I was sure I had the exact change but when I pawed through my pockets I came up 16 cents short.

Before I could reach into my wallet to grab out a dollar bill, a man standing behind me reached forward with his own dollar. “Take it out of this,” he said.

I turned to say thank you, and he was heading out the door. I never really got a good look at him.

Occasionally, we all encounter kindness in the most unexpected times and places. Every time, it catches me off guard. It also reminds me that, as a group, people are kind and generous.

That is no secret. We see it every day, at the convenience store and at other random places. We see it on television, with the many acts of kindness helping the folks in Texas cope with the devastating hurricane and flooding. Nothing made those “regular” people leave their homes to help, pressing their bass boats, kayaks and canoes into service to rescue whole families from the crisis.

Except they did. They reached out and helped. They did it not as Republicans or Democrats, or even as Americans, or as whites or blacks. They did it as people.

I believe kindness is in our DNA. You see it with a mother or father and their newborn baby. You see it in church and schools. And if you let it happen, you will see it just about everywhere.

These are harsh times. Some people can’t open their mouths without F-bombs flying out. Politicians spend all of their time running down other politicians when they ought to be working together trying to solve the problems we all face.

People protest against “fascists” with – more fascism. Communication – talking and listening – and understanding have been replaced by yelling over the top of one another.

I find it to be tiresome, pointless and more than a little dangerous, not in a physical sense – though people are needlessly hurt – but in a spiritual sense. When there is not even an attempt to listen to grievances and understand what a person is saying, there can be no hope of resolving a problem. None.

To me, the interesting thing is that some people may just need to talk through their feelings. That may sound like psycho-babble, but if people are not listened to and feel powerless, that’s when they spin out of control.

And that gets in the way of actually making sense of the human condition. It’s not really about politics – thank goodness for that – and it’s not about money. It’s abut sharing the experience of getting along, not as cookie-cutter copies of one another that agree on everything, but as a collection of jewels, each different, each valuable. Each with its own gifts.

That’s when we will all be able to get along. That’s when the humanity in our hearts will outshine our shortcomings.

As least that’s my 16 cents worth.

Carl Sampson is a freelance writer and editor. He lives in Stayton.

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