It’s raining cats and buffalo. I’m standing in line in the hardware store, waiting to check out. I’ve had a nagging cough since this morning. And, I am in a lethargic mood—somewhere between “unenthused” and “living dead.”
I hope I’m not getting sick.
There’s a girl who joins the back of the long hardware store line. She’s Hispanic, holding a baby. She’s buying one item.
A man lets her cut ahead of him. So does another woman. And another. And ten others in line.
Soon, the girl is at the head of the line, paying the cashier.
“Tank yoo,” she says to everyone.
Everyone waves and says something like, “No problem.”
I leave the store. I jog toward my truck through the rain. My wife calls. She wants me to pick up milk, eggs, and a bottle of vitamins.
“Not the cheap kind,” she explains.
She wants the kind that require a reverse mortgage.
The supermarket—I see a man in a wheelchair. He is in the self-checkout lane. The man is missing both legs and one arm.
He stuffs his groceries into a gym bag. A woman is with him. He refuses to let her help him.
When it is time to pay, he reaches into a pocket and removes a credit card. He swipes, then places the card between his teeth and taps a digital screen.
The cashier inspects the man’s receipt, then says “Have a nice day, sir.”
“Oh, I definitely will,” the man answers.
And he seems to mean it.
After the hardware store, I drive across town to get a haircut. The lady who usually cuts my hair is named Julia. Julia is an artist. The only one who can tame this unruly red mop.
Julia is out with the flu.
The woman who trims my hair is new, from North Alabama. Her accent is pure hill country. And while she fixes the lopsided hairball that is me, I notice photographs stuck to her mirror.
A photograph of a bald man in a hospital gown. The bald man is giving two thumbs up to the camera. Another: the man poses with three girls in a hospital bed.
“That’s my dad,” she says. “He was my best friend. Three years he’s been gone. Still don’t feel real.”
No. And I don’t guess it ever will.
I tip her well because I believe in that sort of thing.
I drive home through the rain. My throat is starting to get sore. I’m not a happy camper, but I am seeing things today that are worth noting.
Like the car on the side of the road with its hazards on. A cop is changing the tire in the rain for an elderly couple.
Or the bearded man, sitting by the door of the gas station store, keeping dry. He has a backpack beside him.
While I pump, an older man in khakis passes the man on the sidewalk. Khakis hands him a plastic bag of snacks and a few bottles of Coca-Cola.
“Stay dry,” Khakis says.
The bearded man’s face lights up like Independence Day.
“God bless!” he yells.
Anyway, I wish I had something magnificent to finish this with, but I’m not a magnificent kind of guy. I’m John Q. Average who is obviously coming down with a super-cold.
I will, however, tell you what I believe:
Being nice doesn’t cost a penny. Neither does love.
But they are the only things worth living for.