Humanity Wins One

July 10, 2019

My mother had a favorite expression she used whenever she saw an act of kindness or something that met her approval.   She would say “Restores your faith in humanity.”

The notion that humanity needs restoring ever so often has been firmly fixed in my mind ever since, so I believe I am equipped to recognize a restoration when I see it.

It was in the Dollar Tree store in Cloverdale Shopping Center.   I witnessed three girls no older than five, two black and one white, come face to face with the economic facts of life.

Now I have to resort to assumptions about what I saw.   They had been brought to the store by an uncle, a father, or a teacher, or maybe all three on what could only be described as a “learning experience.”   Each of the girls had a zip lock bag with coins they have either saved or been given.  They had probably been told that they were on their own to select whatever they wanted and to pay for it out of the coins in the zip lock bags.  I encountered them as they stood in front of me in line with their potential purchases.  They were not accompanied by their adult companion, who stood apart and watched the entire saga play out.   One can conceal nothing from me.  I realized something interesting was going on.

The first young lady had selected two bags of candy.   As she carefully poured out her change onto the counter, the cashier, a very patient man who may have been part of the exercise, although that turned out not to be true, counted out the change and then told the first young lady that she was 25 cents short for the two bags of candy.  He looked at the adult companion, obviously signaling a question as to whether he was prepared to pitch in the needed 25 cents so the young lady could have both bags.   He received a barely discernible shake of the head.  The young lady was on her own.

“Which one do you want?” asked the cashier.

It was a tough decision, because the young lady took her time trying to decide.   By now, the line behind me was growing and I turned to see if anyone was becoming impatient.  Not a one.  They were just as engrossed as I was.   Finally, the young lady made her choice and chose one.   She was disappointed, but I think she had learned a life lesson.

The second young lady then stepped up.   But she had seen what happened when her friend did not have enough money to buy both.  Like her friend, she had selected two items and it was clear that because they all had the same amount of money in their zip lock bag, she was going to have to make a choice.   She did, pushing aside one of the items as the cashier counted out the money.  “Do I have enough money for this one?” she asked.   He smiled and handed her back a dime as he removed the other item from the counter.

The third young lady was next.   By this time, the crowd behind me began to comment amongst themselves about what was going on.   The lady behind me murmured that she hated to see any of the youngsters disappointed and she would have been happy to kick in the 25 cents.   All those around her disagreed with her compassion.   “No, they need to learn about money,” said one man, and the others agreed, even the compassionate woman behind me.  No one – not once – complained about the time being consumed by this life lesson.

The third young lady had learned her lesson.   She carefully laid out her money and told the cashier, “I just have enough money for one,” she said.  She, too, received a dime in change.

As they finished their lesson, the adult companion came up to the cashier to apologize for the time taken to learn their lesson in economics.   The cashier, who had been the soul of helpful patience during the entire process, just smiled and nodded.    But those still in line, who had been delayed more than they probably expected, were more vocal.   They universally agreed that what they had seen restored their faith in humanity.

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