Shannyn Moore for the Anchorage Daily News
I can still be shocked by the awful and ugly of people. I was on another round of outrage with a friend not long ago when she asked:
“Why are you always surprised when people are bad? You live in Alaska. You follow politics. Wake up,” she said, “I’m surprised when people are good, you’re surprised when they aren’t. You do realize I spend much less time being surprised than you do.”
I’ve thought about that a lot. I guess I’ve been lucky enough to witness more than my share of good.
It happened this week. In fact, I hesitate to put it in words out of fear I won’t capture all the wonder, and the beauty, but I’ll try.
I stopped at the corner store on the way home from the studio. I was finishing a phone call and noticed a woman in the parking lot. She obviously had no where else to be. It was hard to tell how old she was, but she looked worn. Cold.
She loitered. I finished my call. We walked into the store at the same time.
Two women were working the counter. I see them from time to time. They smiled at me. We exchanged hellos.
One of the clerks asked the homeless woman, “Are you a customer?”
“I don’t have any money, ” she said. “I need to use the bathroom.”
She waited for some response or permission.
The woman frowned at her.
She’s already beaten down, I thought, why make her feel more beaten?
The other clerk said, “You can get two hot dogs for $2. Here . . .”
She pulled out $2. Crumpled dollars.
She looked at the other clerk and said, “Ring her up for two hot dogs,” and handed her the money.
As the “customer” walked to the bathroom, the $2 went into the register. Tears welled in my eyes.
I consume so much of the news. Women being hanged in Afghanistan. The frustration of an ignored war. Chemicals leak into drinking water. The crocodile tears of Gov. Chris Christie. It’s hard to be involved with the world without becoming cynical.
God knows, we shouldn’t ignore the wrong. Politicians count on us being so disgusted that we’ll stop being surprised by their brazen actions; it helps them if we’re no longer surprised by bad.
This was simple goodness. A woman, paid little to work in a corner store, selflessly defending the dignity of a vulnerable fellow human being. Her kindness was gorgeous. This was real Christian grace and charity. Not a lapel pin or a bumper sticker.
“Are you OK?” the clerk asked me.
“I’m fine,” I thought. “I have a home with a daughter who loves me and two dogs that bark too much.”
I wiped my face.
“Thank you for reminding me that people are more good than bad,” I told her.
The other clerk said, “She does that all the time. I don’t know how she makes rent feeding these people.”
I walked back to Harlon, my Subaru. The woman with two hot dogs walked past and into the night. I’ll never know how she came to depend on the kindness of souls like the corner market lady.
I thought about some of our elected officials who can’t seem to punish the homeless enough. They call themselves Christians but that’s really just something for the resume. They don’t want to help the homeless with public money, much less their own crumpled two dollar bills.
So thank you, corner store lady.
Thank you for reminding me what humanity looks like. It’s too easy to forget. It rarely makes the news.
Shannyn Moore is a radio host on 1480 AM in Washington, D.C., and Netroots Radio