Thanks for the Smile

DATELINE, CALIFORNIA, April 10, 2020

Today, I stood in a long line outside the grocery store, each person heeding the marks to stay six feet apart as they waited to enter. A very old man stood in front of me. May 85 or so, bent forward from age and pulling a rolling cart behind him. A much younger man stood in front of him. All of us wore masks.

Stuffed Panda with Mask
Panda-emic

The younger man told the older man to go in front him. It started a chain reaction, where each subsequent person in line told the older man to go in front of them. The younger man, now in front of me, looked back at me. I smiled at what he had done, but with my mask, I doubted he could tell. (I was also grateful he didn’t tell me to go in front of him because I don’t feel that old yet.)

Respecting Social Distances in Line

After we finished shopping, our cars were parked side by side as we loaded our groceries into our respective trunks. We had pulled off our face masks at that point.

He turned to me and said, (from a safe distance) “We made it! We got our stuff!”

“Yes, we did,” I said.

There was a sense of triumph, a minor victory in the grand scheme of things. Also a feeling of camaraderie I don’t often sense in a big city.

“Happy Easter. Be safe!” he added.

“You too,” I said as we both got in our cars to go back to the safety of our dwellings.

Last Pack of Toilet Paper
Last Pack of Toilet Paper

He made my day, but it doesn’t take much anymore to be ecstatic. I found toilet paper the other day and I felt like the luckiest person in the world. I saw two little girls in pretty Easter dresses, carrying baskets with eggs, delivering them to the house of two other girls. I melted.

Girls in Easter Dresses

As overwhelmed as I am by the news, I’m equally overwhelmed by the goodness that this slowdown has instilled. An unbridled kindness that is now acceptable because we are all in this together. Just a wave and smile to a stranger, a gesture that makes someone else’s day more tolerable and, in a way, says let me make your life less painful. Let me help.

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