I was driving to work on a recent Wednesday afternoon when I found myself in a relatively long line at the stoplight where Main Road meets Highway 17. Like most rush hour participants, getting to my destination as quickly as possible was the main goal. Life, it seems, is sometimes treated as an eternal compilation of responsibilities that we are constantly moving between. Slowing down is not an option.
As I prepared to drive through the intersection, I noticed a man on the side of the road holding a cardboard sign with a message. It read: SEEKING KINDNESS.
I kept driving through the intersection and reasoned that, although I had plenty of time to get to work, I needed that extra time to manage some unrelated tasks, therefore I couldn’t be bothered to meet his request. This reasoning allowed me to bypass a couple of entrances to businesses where I could’ve turned around. However, I couldn’t ignore the pulling on my heart, so I pulled over and backtracked, crossing the intersection again where I parked at a nearby business. I got out and approached the young man.
He put his sign away and smiled at me. I smiled back and we greeted each other with a handshake. He had a large backpack and a dog, resembling a golden retriever, lying patiently in the grass and enjoying the sun. I told him that I noticed his sign and that I felt that God wanted me to help him. I asked what he needed and was very surprised by his answer. I expected to initially hear a request for money or food. But he didn’t ask for those things.
“First, I could really use some friendly conversation. To be treated like a human being would be nice,” he said. He explained that standing on the side of the road with a sign incites anger and aggression among a lot of drivers which results in being yelled at and called names. We talked for a little and I learned that he was traveling, visiting a friend in Charleston and was trying to make his way to Savannah. I chatted with him for a few minutes. He pointed out how so many people seem angry as they were driving by him and we wondered why. We laughed at the sight and began to count blessings; the reasons that we all have to be content instead of angry.
I still had to get to work so I shook his hand and gave him a hug before going about my business, wishing him safe travels. As I drove away, I considered the type of person who would go out of their way to be mean to a guy seeking kindness. It’s one thing to ignore them. It’s quite another to hate them. It comes down to selfishness, I believe.
I find myself continuously amazed at the lack of sympathy and empathy which allows men like President Trump to be heralded and put into positions of power. It’s this disease that allows people to cheer for walls, to close doors on refugees, and take food out of the mouths of those suffering disasters. It’s why the idea that everyone has a right to free healthcare is an abomination to many. This is why people who elect a man who brags about grabbing women’s genitals will shame anyone connected to Harvey Weinstein.
It is sometimes hard to connect the dots that place us in this current position of cultural and social warfare here in the United States. We continue to be divided because this is how we are controlled. It’s a purposeful and ancient tactic.
It’s why both Democrats and Republicans fight so hard to maintain a two-party system. They’ve selected their groups in the same way we might pick teams for a pick-up basketball game. Democrats get gays. Republicans get guns. The last thing they want is for us to think for ourselves and work together.
We’ve been reduced to black and white pieces on a chessboard. We’re not that simple, though. You can be pro-life and in favor of LGBTQ rights. You can be in favor of marijuana legalization and demand respect for law enforcement. You can kneel during the anthem and love this country. We must demand a more inclusive system and stop feeding the machine. We must, instead, rage against it or we will destroy ourselves from the inside.
It starts with the guy seeking kindness. It is taking the opportunity to slow down and practice empathy and sympathy whenever possible. When we stop letting our leaders use our phobias to pit us against each other, we will start to see real change. You will start to see a true community. But until you can do that, you are an enemy to our potential. You are an enemy to humanity.
We are oppressed. We are afraid. We are hated. We are sexually abused. We are lynched. We are hard working. We are colorful and inspired. We are surviving. We are sick. We are thirsty. We are strong. We are the people and we have the power. We are seeking kindness.
The question is: What will you do?