Sometimes the planets align in our lives to make a point.
I just got back from a weekend away. I took off last Thursday and Mary and I cashed in a Gift Certificate the Team had gotten us to get away to a hotel on the ocean in Boothbay called the Spruce Point Inn.
Last Thursday I spent the day catching up on projects. One of them was to make a marble stone path through the garden. Rather than having the stones delivered, I thought I could get enough bags at Lowes to do it.
Of course, the first 10 bags were not enough, so the project was delayed as I went up to the Big Box Store one more time. I had calculated that I would need 8 more bags, and went directly to the garden department to load the bags. I was proud of myself as I arrived with my little red wagon to load up the 50lb bags of marble chips. There was only one line available with one very old couple ahead of me. The look on the faces of the cashier and the older gentlemen told me there was something wrong.
The wife was smiling nervously, and shortly after I pulled up with my little red wagon she went off toward the back of the store in search of something. I was beginning to think maybe this wasn’t going to be so fast. The husband looked in pain, or irritated, I couldn’t tell.
He looked at me and said…”You don’t have a military ID, do you?”
“No, I don’t” I responded quizzically
“Then maybe you should go ahead!”
The cashier explained to us both that a manager was on his way and that she couldn’t stop the transaction.
Minutes went by. 5 minutes, 10 minutes.
I was sure I picked the wrong line.
Between 10 and 15 minutes later, the cashier looked expectantly over my shoulder and explained the manager was almost here. I could see that he had been stopped by another customer with a question. Just then the wife returned with another manager. Both managers arrived to the cashier at about the same time and it became obvious what was going on as the older man began to give an earful to the entire group.
” You people better straighten up! This is ridiculous!”
” I waited 2 hours for my military ID to be ok’ed, and you tell me that you can’t do it without a manager!!” This is ridiculous!” You people are going to lose a lot of money!”
At this point I just wanted him to stop complaining so that I could buy my gravel and leave. His wife ignored his anger and focused on getting him to the car, which was quite a task as he was likely in his late 80’s and very arthritic. I heard his grumbling as he left with a small bag containing only a hose nozzle. I noticed on his hat he had “WW2 Veteran” embroidered on the back. The cashier said nothing but looked irritated. She rang out my order.
As I loaded my bags, I thought about how much service has likely changed in that man’s life time. I was reminded of a show that I saw that explained that in World War 1, the Navy asked the population to send in their binoculars to help the war effort. The show I saw it on was Antiques Roadshow, and the provenance of the binoculars was established because there was a letter, signed by the Franklin Roosevelt (who at the time was Asst. Secretary of the Navy) that thanked the person’s grandfather for sending the binoculars, that they were used in France, and please find enclosed a check for $1.00 as a rental fee for their use.
Now I know this man was not a WW1 veteran, but how different is the world we live in today? Are we better off because of our technology? Is there anything better than the respect that the Navy showed in returning those binoculars? Would the Navy do that now?
The fact is that man lived most of his life in a time that really was different, and I saw his frustration from a different perspective. I’m part of a generation that has only known progress. The progress is rapid, and technological. The technology that we have often interferes with human/human interaction, and prevents us from sharing the timeless human traits….
I read an article recently that cited a study where they measured the serotonin metabolites in the bloodstream of people who were the recipients of compassionate acts. As you probably know, serotonin is the “Feel good” neurotransmitter that is the focus of most of today’s antidepressants. Turns out that if you have compassion extended to you, then your serotonin levels increase. Not only that, but if you PERFORM a compassionate act, your serotonin levels go up about the same.
The coolest part is that in a group of people who simply watched a compassionate act on a video, their serotonin levels increased.
Turns out kindness is good for everyone.
So, Friday we went to Boothbay. I decided to pick up a book while we were there that I had been meaning to read for awhile. The book is called Left To Tell, and it is written by a woman from Rwanda named Immaculee Ilibagiza.
For those of you who read it, I probably don’t have to say much more. For those of you who haven’t, put it on your list. Immaculee was a woman in her early 20’s when she was trapped in the middle of the genocide in Rwanda in the early 90’s. She was a member of the ethnic group (Tutsi) that was targeted for extinction by the majority Hutu. The ethnic tension built up over a long time, but the genocide erupted very quickly. She lost all but one of her family and spent 3 months in a very small bathroom with 7 other women, being hidden by a Pastor (who was a Hutu) in her community. She credits her faith and maintaining hope as the primary reasons for her survival. She weighed 115 lbs when she went into that bathroom. When she finally was rescued by the French military, she weighed 65lbs.
Before reading Left To Tell, I was only peripherally aware of the genocide in Rwanda. Honestly, for me it was one of those news stories that seemed very far away. I’m embarrassed to say that now. Nearly 1 million people were killed during about 3 months.
For me, the gift of these things happening together was that I became aware of my point of view as the limiting factor in my own experience.
I know that sounds a little funny, but follow me on this.
If you live in a wealthy nation that has not known much hardship, you are unaware of the capacity of human beings to overcome adversity.
We all have some adversity, each of us has faced challenges that tap our inner strength. Sometimes it all seems overwhelming. But you don’t have to look far to see true triumph of the human spirit…and invariably that triumph requires personal strength and the connection to others that we love.
I enter this week humble.
You may smack me in the face if you hear me whining….