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Of human kindness – the open door


Although the unofficial end to summer was Labor Day, the heat was oppressive in New York City area this week. I won’t blame global warming or climate change, because somehow or another it seems to happen every year like clockwork.

On the busy streets of Manhattan there is always an opportunity to observe what’s going on around you. These days, it is highly advisable to be aware of your surroundings, since there are so many stories of random acts of human depravity that turn into unwanted headlines for people just going about their daily business.

On the way to a meeting, something a bit unusual caught my eye. A McDonalds on the upper east side had a doorman. That’s a bit upscale, I thought. But a closer look revealed a bit more. The “doorman” had a few of his personal belongs laying on the ground beside him, and was dressed way too casual to be employed as a doorman. He was probably, I surmised, either homeless or someone down on his luck. Opening the door for strangers coming in and out of this particular McDonalds was his “hustle.”

It was near lunchtime, and there was a lot of activity, in and out of the fast-food restaurant. Most people going in or out said nothing to the man, not even a “thank you” or any kind of acknowledgement. He didn’t say a word to anyone entering or leaving, he concentrated on delivering his “service.”

After a few dozen people entered or left, one person did stop on the way out – and quietly handed the unofficial doorman some loose change. Which was received with a “thank you.”  Shortly after that a young Asian woman came out with a bag and turned to the man who held the door open for her. She reached in the bag and asked the man if he was hungry and wanted something to eat. “Yes ma’am” he said – offering a few other words, which I couldn’t hear.

The “kindness” of it all was shared between just the two of them. Neither noticed me watching.  What struck me, aside from the random act of kindness what the breaking of a “narrative.”  You see, New York City over the past few months has seen horrific violent attacks, one that made it into the headlines was of an Asian woman brutally beaten for no reason by an African-American man. A few weeks back a group of African-American and Latino teenagers attack Asian passengers on a subway, tourists who were visiting the city. Yet – here was this young Asian woman, sharing her lunch with an African-American man who had simply held the door open for her.

Later that day, I saw another “open door” episode. A middle-aged white woman was riding on her mobility scooter approaching the door of an office supply retailer.  A tall African-American man walking past, noticed her and quickly got in position to open the door for her – as she thanked him profusely.

These two brief observances made me think about my dad. In spite of he and my mom being strict disciplinarians, my dad was the kindest man I have ever met. He regularly talked about “kindness” as the proper reaction to have, when people intentionally slighted you. He practiced being kind to people – in so many ways it would take a book to document them all.

There is so much poison in our country, and across the world today. Every day we are bombarded with news of inhumanity, and evil, so much “toxic” energy, that have us consciously or unconsciously, on edge waiting for the next ugly thing to happen.

But thankfully, if we look carefully, we will always find the “open door” where “kindness,” in small or large ways can “change” that narrative, and remind us the better nature of humankind.

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