Sugar and Salt

In March of 2014 I went to a Coney Island restaurant and ordered my usual: two coney dogs, fries and water. After finishing my meal, the server asked me did I have room for dessert. I stated that I did not and that I was ready for the check. She then replied that some person, who wished to remain anonymous, was picking up the tab for my meal. Somewhat taken aback, I asked was she sure. She said, “Yes. From time to time someone comes in and pays for a patron’s meal and does so anonymously.”

I told her that I was moved by such kindness. I wish I could personally thank whoever this benefactor was. I must have told her how kind that was at least several times. In any event, I looked around and about forty or so people were dinning – some alone, others with someone[s] else. There was nothing about anyone that would have led me to believe it was him or her or them. So, I left.

More than being impressed with such a random act of kindness toward a stranger, I was forced, once again to recalibrate my notion of human beings. Much of the time, as reflected in my essays and screenplays, I focus on the underbelly of the human beast. I see humans in all their agony and grief precipitated by the greed, selfishness and cruelty of others. But every now and then, someone does something that forces me to adjust my perspective; I am forced to see that inhumanity exists because there is humanity.

To that end, I have to acknowledge that there are men who truly respect women and would not even dream of abusing them. I have to admit there are white people for whom one iota of racism is repulsive and would stand up against any who would dare discriminate. I know there are black people who actually respect themselves by truly believing that the dark skin of a black person is as beautiful as light skin on a black person. And, yes, there are straight people who would stand up against homophobes with the same vigor as they would against any violation of a person’s humanity. I cannot ignore the fact that there are wealthy people who understand that poverty is more of a function of a structure developed and perpetuated by the elite rather than a combination of laziness and a sense of entitlement on the part of those who suffer such poverty. In short, I know that humans are as base as they are sublime; they are as sweet as they are salty.

The times I have done something similar for a stranger, I asked myself why. Not consciously, but otherwise, I realize I do so to add some sugar to the potion I drink each day lest I be what I so often loath about humans.

I then ask: If it were possible for someone from another planet populated with a peaceful species whose technology was behind ours and which was replete with resources that humans could use, came to me and asked, should they allow humans to arrive and settle on their planet, what would my answer be? My answer quickly sinks me back to being surprised — nearly shocked — that a stranger engaged in a random act of kindness.

Published in: on March 26, 2014 at 9:03 PM  Leave a Comment  
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