She pets his hand, then holds it. And while he stares straight ahead, she measures her tiny hand against his big one.

Right now, I'm in a hospital waiting room. My mother-in-law sits to my right, waiting on a routine visit. And at the moment, she's hypnotized by the corner television—which is set to HGTV.

The TV-host, a woman in a pink tool-belt, explains how to create vaulted ceilings in a bathroom, using only a sledgehammer. My mother-in-law asks if I think her bathroom needs vaulted ceilings.

I do not.

The couple to my left is in their thirties. He looks like he works hard for a living—scuffed jeans and boots, weathered skin. The woman beside him, a strawberry-blonde, bites her fingernails.

“It's cold in here,” she's saying.

“Yep,” he answers, with a blank face.

She pets his hand, then holds it. And while he stares straight ahead, she measures her tiny hand against his big one.

“Are you scared?” she asks.

He shrugs, eyes on the television.

On TV, they're using bottle caps for a kitchen backsplash instead of tile. The TV host is quite excited about this.

My mother-in-law taps my shoulder. “I want one of those backsplashes."

Sure thing.

The

woman leans her head on the man's shoulder. He's gazing at the television, deep in thought. Maybe he wants a bottle-cap backsplash, too.

The woman says, “I've been praying the doctor can just cut it all out, while he's in there, I mean, every bit.”

The unblinking man lets out a long sigh. He's in no mood to chat. So, she tucks herself under his arm and watches television.

The TV-host is now discussing the utmost importance of interior color schemes for true spiritual happiness.

Then, the nurse calls the man's name.

He stands up, removes his ball-cap. His hair is a mess. He hands the cap to the woman and takes a breath. “I gotta go, baby.”

She nods.

When they embrace, she doesn't see how tight he's closing his eyes—he looks like a boy when he holds…

I watched a woman’s credit card get denied. Her three children had already finished their suppers.

Once, I saw a middle-aged man stop four lanes of traffic, just outside Atlanta. He did it for a confused dog. The frightened thing stood in the center of the interstate, panting.

When the man loaded the dog into his car, he said, “This old fella's gonna be nineteen tomorrow. He gets mixed-up, but he's a good boy.”

He looked like a good boy, too.

Shreveport, Louisiana: at Waffle House. I watched a woman's credit card get denied. Her three children had already finished their suppers. The woman hung her head and actually offered to return later and wash dishes.

The cook stepped in. “Sweetie, supper is on me.”

Without hesitation, the man removed his wallet and paid for the meal himself. Fifteen minutes later, as if on cue, four truckers tipped that man four twenty-dollar bills.

Enterprise, Alabama: I saw a child climb too high in a tree. He froze when he got to the top. A slew of parents tried to talk him down. No dice. Finally, a teenage boy kicked off his shoes and scurried up like an acrobat.

“Get on my back,” said the teenager.

That teenager carried sixty pounds all the way to the bottom.…