Our post office was crowded that day. I stood at the end of a long line of quietly waiting customers.
But up near the front, one person was not so quiet. The homeless-looking elderly man with most of his teeth missing, was talking up a storm with whoever would listen. He seemed to be focused on the ills of the government, but his commentary wasn’t making a whole lot of sense. And he was definitely not using his indoor voice.
First he chatted with the guy who was in front of him. You could tell by the uncomfortable look on the other man’s face that he had no idea who this obnoxious chatterbox was or why he was talking to him like they were old friends.
When the uncomfortable man’s turn came, the loud gentleman then turned and began another noisy conversation with the people behind him. They hurriedly tried to look like they were doing something else or were deeply engrossed in their own conversations. Didn’t matter. He continued to talk.
Finally, his turn came. You could almost hear the other customers sigh with relief. If there had been a comic-strip bubble above their annoyed faces, it would have read,
“Yes! Please help this nutcase quickly and get him on his way!”
But that’s not what happened.
When the clerk called, “Next!” and the unkempt, talkative gentleman stepped forward, the clerk’s face visibly brightened as he smiled and cheerfully welcomed him by name.
“Well, hello there Mr. … What can I do for you today?”
The sincere, respectful greeting by name to this particular customer, surprised everyone. It would have been more understandable for him to take a deep “Why me?” sigh and give a flat, “How can I help you?” Or even, “Um … I think she can help you at the next window …”
But instead, we observed a kind, patient clerk conduct business with a loud, toothless man as if he was the most honored guest in the Post Office. And all of us onlookers immediately realized the truth. This was more than just mere customer service. This was one man’s personal choice of how he would treat others. And the extent of that choice was even further highlighted by the polar opposite color of each man’s skin.
Watching that scene, I heard something begin to rise deep inside me. Cheering. The sweet rumble of applause for the clerk, for the elderly gentleman and for the unexpected pleasure of getting a small peek into the glory of one man’s right choice toward another—regardless of how “worthy” others may or may not deem that individual.
I left the post office that day feeling like I had just taken part in something grand. For those few moments, I knew I had witnessed in capsule the answer to human relationships.
What if we all followed the postal employee’s example? What if that went viral? What if no matter who stepped up to the counter of our lives, we chose to treat them with the same high level of genuine appreciation and respect, simply because they were a fellow human being, and therefore, deserved it?
It wouldn’t leave any room for any prejudice against anyone, anywhere, for anything.
As I pulled back onto our main street that day and headed toward home, the thought of living in that kind of town, in that kind of country, in that kind of world, excited me. Just one personal choice toward others could change it all. And it had already started—at our local post office.
I want to be a part of starting change too. How about you?