Today, I will tell you two stories. One of these stories affirms my rapidly dwindling faith in humanity and one that rebuts it.
Story the first:
Today in my Marriage and the Family class (I am getting a minor in Psychology), we were talking about the roles of gender in the family. The questions were raised, as they always are, about what makes a person a man or a woman, apart from the obvious anatomical disparities. People began rattling off answers about how men are providers, stoic, leaders, etc. I’m sure you can name the stereotypes. For the women, answers such as home maker, mother, and the rest of those commonplaces were thrown around.
I sat quietly, listening. When the answers slowed down, I raised my hand to chip in my thoughts on gender (which you might remember). Basically, I think gender is overemphasized, and that in today’s increasingly androgynous world, gender lines are getting blurred, and I don’t see the big reason to worry about it. I pointed out that I am not particularly stereotypically masculine in a lot of ways, which has come up in previous discussions in the class.
Today, though, I guess the topic came up one too many times, and from behind me, I heard one of the guys say , “Fag.” Much muted sniggering followed. Typically, I’m not too phased by this sort of thing. I’m quite comfortable in both my masculinity and in my heterosexuality, so I don’t really have anything to hide, but being that I go to a Christian University, and given that this is an upper division course, I figured my thoughts and ideas would be met with a bit more decorum and respect. I would be lying if I told you that it didn’t sting a little.
Story the second:
Being that I go to a Christian school, we have mandatory chapels. Sometimes, these chapels are just onerous, but every now and then, we get a good speaker who really catches our attention. The speaker today was of the latter sort, and I was delighted when I heard he was speaking. He told us a modernized version of the Woman at the Well story. In the end, the woman in the modernized vesion was asked what she would want if she had three wishes. It ultimately came out that she wasn’t so much interested in money or being away from where she was so much as she was wanting forgiveness, a way to start over, and someone to love her.
The speaker concluded by challenging us to ask someone who looked down or alone what they’d want if they had three wishes, in an attempt to try to help them out a little bit. Later that day, as I was sitting on a bench outside, letting the sun wash over me, someone I had never seen before walks up to me, and with a half-smirk asks me what I’d want if I had three wishes. Apparently, I looked depressed.
I looked the person in the eye and said, “That’s not really a hard question for me. I’d like someone I love very much not to be sick. I’d like for the world to stop spiraling into war. And lastly, I’d like for every family who has lost someone in the war to get an answer for why they had to sacrifice a loved one.”
The person stammered for a minute, before I assured him (or her) that it was ok if no answer was coming. No one else seemed to have one. The person said thanks and walked off. A few minutes later, the person came back and sat down next to me. Apparently, this person had lost an uncle in Afghanistan a while back. I had no idea who I was talking to, but I just listened. I just sat there and absorbed every piece of information offered about her uncle, his unit, when he was supposed to come home. After a few minutes, the person looked up at me and said, “Thanks. I needed to get all of that out,” and left.
I don’t know who it was, and I don’t know if I will ever see him (or her) ever again, but that was a day that got better not because I was doing anything, but because I looked like I was in need of some cheering up.
Life’s funny that way. Sometimes you set out to help someone out, but you end up getting the help you need instead. Maybe we aren’t so screwed up after all.
I’ve got an idea that I’ll post about in a few days, after I let it roll around in my head, letting the gaps fill themselves in Katamari style. In the mean time, what are your stories of human kindness or of human cruelty that you’ve seen or experienced? Either post them in the comments, or leave a comment with a link to your own entry, and I’ll put them all together in a nice list and post it in a few days, after you’ve had some time to write your own stories.