The man sitting across from me on the bus will not stop talking to me. I prefer to relish in my own introversion, so making small talk with a stranger is an arduous request. It takes a deep breath and a shot of willpower, but I continue contributing small affirmations and nods. I secretly wish I had the courage to be rude so that he would cease this conversation, until it dawns on me that the courage to be kind is even greater.
My brief exchange with this man will not lead to a friendship, but it will give him the small glimpse of humanity he is seeking. I do not talk to strangers on the bus or in the street because I have a wonderful circle of friends and family to share my experiences with, but this man may not.
The world has too often seen the devastating consequences of men and women who feel alone and ostracized by the world. Technology pulls us further apart even as we continue to live side by side. We need small moments of true connection to prove our humanity hasn’t been replaced with hard drives and cell phones.
I do not know what is going on in this man’s life. He may be struggling or sad, lonely or just bored, and the only thing he is asking of me is a tiny interaction during my daily hour-long bus ride. As someone who professes to care about the state of the world, I took much to long to recognize that caring for each other is the only thing that matters.
As I become more involved in our discussion, his demeanor grows livelier. My brief conversation with this man may not solve all the world’s ills or even his own, but I know he appreciates the small effort I made. As he steps off the bus into the cold Chicago wind, he turns back and says, “Thanks for making the ride a little more pleasant.”
Even the slightest ounce of kindness can be like a warm hug on a cold day. I now view it as a necessity rather than an inconvenience. For this I believe: the smallest acts of kindness can do the greatest good.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.