MAR 14 2016
Earlier this evening I had stopped by Home Depot to get a couple of things; one of which was a tool "duffle" bag for carrying some random cables and whatnot on this upcoming tour. I was browsing the tool bags, a guy with two kids was behind me looking at some tools, another guy browsing products near him. Gentleman "B" turns to gentleman "A" (the one with the kids) and says, "you'll find that at Harbor Freight for about half the price". Gentleman "A" replies back, "Really? Great, where is that? On Ben White?" Gentleman "B" answers, "I don't really know, I'm here from Alabama." I chime in, "Yes, roughly Ben White and South Lamar." Thank you's are exchanged.
Gentleman "B" and I make small talk and he mentions Alabama again. I say I'll be there on tour next week. The usual conversation starts. What do you play, where, etc. He states very simply that he's not really in to music, been to a concert once. He likes music but just doesn't know much or follow it in any way. I listen. I nod. I ask if he happens to know if Harbor Freight has these kinds of bags any cheaper; cheap enough to make it worth my drive. He replies, "Probably not, you might save 10, 15 bucks", and he adds, "if that's worth it to you."
I reply, "As a musician, yeah, it's probably worth it."
He asks very bluntly and sincerely, "Really?"
"Yeah", I respond in a very matter of fact tone.
He reaches out his hand and says, "Here," extending his hand to take the bag, "I'll get it for you."
I ask, "Are you serious?"
"C'mon," he nods and starts walking toward the register. "What kind of music do you play?"
I stumble for a description, like I always do. He is utterly disinterested. I proceed to offer my thanks, my genuine surprise at his kindness, my words coming up short. "I won't forget this", I finally add. I tell the cashier. She doesn't get it. She's making items beep on the scanner.
"What's your name, my friend?", I ask gentleman "B".
"John," he states in a stoic manner, as has been his demeanor all along.
"What you do for a living, John?" I feel like I should know something about this guy.
"I build skyscrapers, glass and steel", he states. He swipes his credit card. I stand there quietly, childlike, grateful. "I really appreciate this", I add.
"No problem. It's the way people are in Alabama."
We shake hands, we look straight at each other, we nod. John never smiles, but I can tell that he feels good about this gesture of kindness. His stoicism never falters but something is quietly stirring in him. We nod again to each other and he walks off.
I tell the cashier again what just happened as she rings up my other item. She is now just as surprised and stumbling for the right words. What was two is now three complete strangers are sharing a true moment of random kindness.
I walk out of Home Depot, my $30 bag in hand. I'm very moved by this experience, by John's simple, straightforward gesture of kindness. I step to cross the parking lot to my car, a truck pauses in the roadway to let me pass. It's John, couple of fingers raised up off the steering wheel - the driver's wave. I smile, I give him a thumbs up. He doesn't smile, he doesn't need to.
I try to process the moment. I sit in my car for a minute or two before I realize it's too hot, I need some AC. I'm smiling, I'm tearing up.
In this world, where the media shoves poison at us on the hour, every hour, while the vitriol we see on the "campaign trail" dominates the news and arrows are fired from one ideological encampment to another here on FB, it is a simple act of kindness that can - to steal a line from Bruce Cockburn - "bring water to my eyes". I was deeply moved by a complete stranger's kindness; purchasing a gift for me. A most random, generous act. One human being to another.
I'll likely never see John again. But, his simple gift made for a crystal clear understanding in me of one thing: We are all bone tired, painfully weary of the endless "bad news", the deadly water, the toxic food, the needless suffering, the violence, the mind numbing ignorance, the greed, the divisive political rhetoric; all of which poisons the psyche. It just takes one moment of decency, of sharing, of oneness to wake up that which is so good in all of us, for all of us.
I've shared this story with my family, in particular with my impressionable young daughter. And, now with you. There is good, genuine good, out there. Don't ever abandon this understanding. While soundbites and disturbing videos take aim, light fuses and pump our bloodstreams full of poison it's actually kindness, dignity, respect, compassion, tolerance and love that can still prevail one moment at a time.
And John, please know that I will pay it forward. - WR