18 Miles of Kindness and Counting

Poster at the entrance to Strand Bookstore, NYC – Photo by Joy Lau

February 7, 2017

This morning I witnessed four separate acts of random kindness during my subway commute. They were simple gestures from perfect strangers to other perfect strangers, one act lasting two seconds and others longer because of the language gaps that were eventually bridged by smiles.

Later in the evening I was happy to find this poster at the entrance to my neighborhood bookstore, Strand. Yes, The Strand of 18 Miles of Books and Counting. They don’t mince their words: “Refugees Welcome Here”. 

After not finding the book I wanted, despite the many miles, I wandered into my local store for insomniacs, Best Buy – electronics 24 hours a day. I found a headphone jack adaptor that I didn’t know I needed, and didn’t know how it worked. Glancing around me, I tapped on the shoulder of a fellow customer to borrow his headphones. He was talking on the phone. Embarrassed by my utter rudeness, I quickly apologized, but he replied no problem, and told his girlfriend in Spanish that he’ll call her back.

Strolling home, bounty in hand, I encountered a fight on the street. A tall white man wearing a long black coat and brown fedora was in a heated argument with a slight black woman wearing a hooded winter coat, their words muffled by their scarves and coats. Folks had gathered to separate the fight. As I got closer, I noticed the bemused looks on the faces of the crowd. The black lady shouted with such passion that I sensed the force of her anger but could not understand her words, however I understood what the man screamed, “He’s your president! He’s your president!”

The way I see the United States of America is, we’re one big extended family. We have Cousin Tom over there polishing his guns, Cousin Fred always correcting my grammar, Aunt Wendy trying to force me to eat kale, Grandma Jo talking about how it was always better in her day, and other wacky relatives doing their things in their own corner of the house. But despite all our differences and issues, we all come to the table when the food’s ready, and we give thanks.

I am thankful to this country and for this country. I know we’re loud and messy and obnoxious. That’s what Democracy is, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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