Almost exactly two years ago, I was published on these pages for the first time with this opening paragraph:
It’s been a weird week. No one is going to argue about that.
And forget parties and preferences and candidates for a second. Just look at how we have all started to treat each other and take a deep breath.
Seems like little has changed in the last 700+ days. And this last week was one of the worst we’ve had in awhile when it comes to hate and senseless violence – both throughout the country and right here in our own grocery aisles.
I was walking into a gas station on a gray afternoon last week and noticed an African American gentleman at the end of the sidewalk. He made eye contact and waved. His clothes were shabby and oversized. He looked like he wanted to talk to me, but he was too far away to be heard. I slipped a tight smile his direction and opened the door into the convenient store.
Inside a radio squawked. A reporter was telling the latest in a series of stories meant to illustrate the current unrest in our country. She used words like “division” and “anger.”
The bell on the door chimed. A half dozen people came into the store behind, most of them seemingly part of a work crew. They were large white guys in coveralls with beards and southern accents. Their paint truck could be seen out the window in the parking lot.
I walked to the soda fountain, just to the left of the hot food counter, when I noticed someone coming into my peripheral vision. Near the packed hot chicken and french fries, the man I’d seen before now stood. He was quiet and hunched. He softly spoke, directing his voice to any one of the store staff that might hear him. He was requesting someone hand him a box of food to purchase.
I selected a soda and fumbled for a straw and lid. From the back of the store, I heard one of the paint crew guys.
“Did you get some food?” he yelled up towards the front of the store.
I was confused. Who was he talking to?
And then I started to put it together:
The work crew guys didn’t ignore the gentleman on the sidewalk like I did.
They invited him in. They offered to buy him some hot food.
When they all met at the counter, the leader of the group from the truck encouraged the other man to get more.
“Get some you can save for later,” he said in that southern drawl.
At this point, I had made my purchase. I was heading to the door. The radio droned on.
That wasn’t the issue for those few minutes in that small corner of the world.
The bigger issue was me: lazy, ignoring, self-absorbed.
If we want to stop bold hate, we have to show bold love.
Sometimes that just means buying someone who is nothing like you chicken and fries.
I need to get better at this.