This I Believe

Barbara - Fort Worth, Texas
Entered on August 26, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: humanism

I believe in the struggle to believe in the kindness of strangers.

As I commute in the early morning darkness between a home in Fort Worth and a job in Dallas, I travel alone—accompanied only by an NPR newscast.

I evade massive semis and dodge 80 mph pickups to the rhythm of radio voices cataloging a litany of cruel complexities. I get a repeat of this barrage when I check CNN on the internet or catch the local news on TV—usually learning of bad times and tragedies afflicting my neighbors.

I caution myself (in the darkness of my solitary commute) about the shadowy, fearful mindset that this “checking the latest” casts on my perceptions of people and situations in my immediate reality. I force myself on a memory search for touchstones of personal kindnesses that really make up my blessed existence.

I remember

• a stranger in England returning the bag (with my passport in it) that I had absent-mindedly left on a train;

• the African American man who changed my flat tire in a rural Texas county as his wife told me of their trip back from burying her father;

• the elderly couple who frighteningly backed up a freeway easement to pick up three women stranded by car trouble,

• and a thousand personal acts of kindness from strangers who have sailed through my life.

And then a social worker (like me) is killed as she takes an elevator down to her car in an office building in Dallas—as I do each weekday.

And then Virginia Tech happened. And Iraq happens daily.

I believe in the struggle to believe in the kindness of strangers. But this difficult, constant processing of life’s media-covered realities weighs more heavily as my optimistic, can-do generation ages into frailty. And I consider, in my Texas way, becoming licensed to carry.

But I still believe in the struggle to believe in the kindness of strangers