My daughter and I were on the bus the other day when an older woman got on and slowly made her way toward the back, obviously looking for a place to sit. As she passed fit-looking riders in seats, no one jumped up. So when she got to us, halfway back, I offered her our spot. She had already spied another empty seat but she gave me a big smile. “Thank you very much for offering,” she said. “No one is ever kind anymore.”
I protested. People want to help, they’re just clued out. I made the same argument at a recent girls’ night out, when one of my friends complained that common courtesy has taken a nose dive because nobody cares. I just had to open my mouth. “I don’t think that’s true,” I said. I expounded my theory: People are fundamentally kind. But when we’re rushing from A to B, modern-day crap gets in the way. I think the combined stresses of hectic lifestyles, job demands, sleep deprivation, text messaging, recessions, crowds, mortgages, gas prices, federal elections and Jacob-versus-Edward controversies all work to distract people from the neediness that’s right in front of our faces.
I know I walk around in a fog sometimes. I know, too, that I used to be worse. The practice of doing a good deed a day taught me to pay a bit more attention to what’s around me. But still I’m certain I’ve missed many opportunities to do good turns, simply because I’ve been preoccupied.
What do you think? Are we as a society really getting more selfish? Or do we just have too much on our minds? Is politeness passé? Is benevolence behind the times? Is altruism obsolete?
Say it isn’t so.