“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
I recently took my 86 year old mother out to lunch in her wheelchair. It’s a running joke between the two of us about how well I can maneuver her in the chair since I have been doing it for a few years now. However, some situations are easier than others, and this experience has taught me a great deal about my fellow man.
When we were at the restaurant the other day, a torrential downpour occurred while we were eating our lunch. Although there was an unused front door (without an alarm), the manager would not let us use it to get close to our vehicle, so we were forced to deal with the downpour. Unfortunately I had no umbrella and I could not pull the car very close to the door. The rain was NOT stopping and it was clear my poor mother was going to get drenched. I asked the three young girls standing at the hostess stand if anyone had an umbrella that we could borrow, perhaps in the kitchen? Without even looking (and barely stopping their conversation) they simply said “no,” even though they saw our predicament.
Trying to maneuver the door by myself, I realized even if I put my mother on the covered patio, she would still get drenched. As I pondered my situation, I noticed the three girls were still chatting amongst themselves as they watched us. I finally surrendered, understanding there was no way I could make this work, so I slipped off my flip flops and ran for the car; that way at least I could pull it slightly closer. Although I was dripping wet by the time I got back near the door, I was lucky enough to run into two patrons who were just entering the building with an umbrella. I asked them if I could please borrow their umbrella to help my mother outside, and they were kind enough to agree. At this point, I was wrestling the wheelchair to get my mom out the door while holding the umbrella in the pouring rain. Yet, all the while, those three young women continued their conversation while watching a 58 year old dripping wet woman struggle with her 86 year old mother in a wheelchair. Not one of them even offered to open the door.
My family owned a restaurant for 25 years and we lived upstairs from it when I was a child. Therefore, I grew up in the environment of service to others and was taught at an early age to pull out chairs, open doors, step aside, and be helpful; especially to older people. (I still offer my seat to others on a crowded bus or subway when needed, and as a 58 year old, I suppose I am now one of the “older folks.”) This behavior was in no way looked at as extraordinary, but only a common courtesy that we show to one another as human beings.
Perhaps it is our busy computer age in which we now live, but I have noticed in recent years an uprise of people being so wrapped up in their own life experiences, that they are literally clueless to the needs of those around them. From driving on the freeway watching folks getting cut off right and left, or sitting at a signal as cars fly (very often) through flagrant red lights, to walking through Trader Joe’s front door seeing a young man jump rudely in front of an old woman who is moving too slowly for his liking, most of the individuals that I experience have little awareness of the space around them and are in their own little worlds. It truly saddens me when I see such a selfish display of egocentric “me-ism.” Yes, I am a sensitive and I notice things and feel into the needs of others, but I think it’s time everyone needs to start paying attention a little bit more.
Perhaps it’s time we start looking up from our phones. Let’s notice what’s going on around us! Why not look into the eyes of our fellow man as we make our way through the day? Instead of feeling the need to race around, perhaps we need to plan our time better, enabling us to be in the present moment. Why not open doors for one another, smile at strangers and think of someone besides ourself. We are all connected, whether we realize it or not, and the small inconsiderate acts not only reflect who we are as individuals, but who we are as a whole. Many people are questioning why bad things are happening in our modern world; perhaps the best place to start is by looking in the mirror and becoming a more empathetic and considerate human being. Make the change within, because this is where our control lies.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama