A Diorama of Life

If you want a glimpse of the best and worst of the human condition, look no further than the parking lot of your local grocery store. As I sat at Safeway this afternoon, waiting for Evan to bring the cart in and come back, I mused on several individual encounters and how parking lots, in general, seem to bring out the best and worst in people.

One little old woman, struggling to get her cart over a speed bump, was finally helped over it by a younger woman. Almost the moment they crossed, as I still smiled at this act of kindness, the car that had been waiting for the women to cross roared across with a glare on his face that intimated his entire night was now ruined because of the forty seconds spent idling at the crosswalk. As we pulled away, a man was walking to his car, which he had parked at the farthest end even though there were many closer open spots. Although I don't know his motives, it was nice to see an able bodied person leave those closer spots open for some less able who might come along.

Nothing makes me angrier than watching an inconsiderate and impatient person in action, and nothing makes me more proud of my race than a random act of kindness from a stranger. It's like that commercial where one person does something nice, is seen by another person who goes on to repay the favor, and so on until that original startee of the acts is then eventually repaid. How many times have you seen that person, and we all have seen them, who takes the closer spot and leaves the little old lady to walk a farther distance, leaves their cart in the empty spot beside them for another car to run into, doesn't stop for a moment at the crossing and makes the woman with three kids to stand in the rain (pretending they don't see and staring firmly ahead), or zooms into the spot that another car has been waiting for? I love stores that have plenty of handicapped spots, followed by spots reserved for expecting mothers and families with children. It makes me so angry to see able, healthy people with no excuses put themselves before those who could certainly make better use of what is taken for granted by the others. However, one can also observe the small amount of grace and charity left in this population if you look hard enough. Those who walk the extra 100 feet, give up a parking space to someone who needs it more, and pause to let a single pedestrain walk by (extra points for smiling while they do so).

The next time you're in a parking lot, drive slowly, park a little further, put you cart back into the corral, and stop for the people walking around. You may not get any thanks, but perhaps the person who sees you will repay the next person in need, and someday, when you need it, the favor will return to you.

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