a little BIG thing

Another hot and humid South Carolina day…

I stood, more or less (more, I confess, less) patiently, in a line at the store; my cart half-filled. The air-conditioning system on the blink (really?) offered no respite from the sweltering weather.

Before me, a young black man, a can of soda in his hand; his pants slung low, exposing more (too much more!) than the waistband of his brightly-colored boxer shorts, his tank top at least two sizes too large, hanging loosely from his narrow shoulders.

Before him, an older, portly white man, his suspendered trousers high on his waist, with two carts, each a psalmic “cup running over” with groceries.

“What a contrast in age, race, and style,” I thought to myself, that is, when I wasn’t grumbling about the heat and the length of the line moving at the pace of a geriatric arthritic tortoise.

Finally, we neared check-out.

The older gentleman turned to the young man behind him, looking up-and-down, his countenance quizzical (I imagined: curious? disdainful?). “My dear young sir,” he said, his Southern drawl molasses-thick, “you only have one item. You go ahead of me.” I couldn’t see the young man’s face, but I heard his voice, his tone registering surprise. “Thanks. Appreciate it.”

America’s tenaciously long-lived racial divide wasn’t healed. Nor the ill of ageism overcome. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help myself. Spontaneously, I smiled. This little act, both in the giving and in the receiving, in a big way, fortified my hope, my trust that, in a world and time of increasing anxiety and anger, particularly in the public square and directed at “the other”, civility lives.

8 thoughts on “a little BIG thing

  1. Dear Paul,

    I too am smiling and inwardly cheering and clapping for the two men who gave you a smile today. I think it’s blessed work to watch the small interactions that bespeak attitudes and nurture the roots of relationships. It can give heart where and when it’s tempting to lose heart. I hope that both of these men will remember, as you clearly have, their lovely interaction today and will use those little pebbles as building blocks for future encounters that may be about more than shopping. I also hope more people than just you observed it and gained hope and encouragement from it. God bless them both, and you as well for so lovingly documenting the moment for all of us who cherish such small, but significant stories.

    Much love,


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, dearest Karen.

      “…I hope that both of these men will remember…their lovely interaction today and will use those little pebbles as building blocks for future encounters that may be about more than shopping…” A most wondrously conceived and beautifully worded hope; one that I share.

      Much love


  2. I thought that those low pants and brightly-colored boxer shorts was a D.C. thing (I almost write the word thong).! Learning English can ve tricky! I have always said that when it comes to other races or the others we tend to think and look the worst of each other, and we tend to overlook the goodness inside of each of us. All it takes is to dig a little bit inside to discover it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That is a Great story Paul!! Thanks for sharing it!! Most of the news these days is about people not getting along with the other. Being uncomfortable in the heat can bring out the worst in people but it was great to read that today a small thing happened that gives us all hope!!


    Liked by 1 person

    • Amen. Easily, given my experience of life in this world, might I have anticipated this encounter to turn out entirely differently. Blessedly, I am happy to have been a witness to this tender human exchange. It – these two people – refreshed my hope in what’s possible when we, in kind, give and receive kindness.

      Much love

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s out there; it’s possible; it exists. But rarely do we see it. Civility…a nearly arcane word for a nearly arcane phenomenon.

    But that gesture is key: to show someone not like oneself that there is more for them in this world than hate from people like oneself.

    One person at a time…one gesture at a time.

    Thank you for sharing this, dear. The roots of civility still lie in the soil of South Carolina. They just need a bit of cultivating and rain…and you’ve just done some cultivating.


    • Thank you, Kitsy. I cannot agree with you more – “…that gesture is key: to show someone not like oneself that there is more for them in this world hate from people like oneself…” Sometimes, I think and feel, that what restrains us humans – in this, surely, I include myself – from reaching across that invisible, but no less real barrier between us is fear; fear of rejection, perhaps, too, in being rejected, fear of discovering or rather rediscovering that our prejudices are justified. Thank you again, Kitsy, for I also concur with you that it is “One person at a time…one gesture at a time.”

      Liked by 1 person

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