The One Act That Made a Difference (and the One Act That Undid It)

I can think of at least 15 things (three involving paint) I'd rather be doing with my morning than renewing my driver's license, especially at this tiny satellite branch with a confusing system, bad lighting (resulting in the ugliest possible photographic representation of oneself), and limited seating.

Walking in, I saw the disorganized lines and crossed arms and I felt irritated. As I was trying to find someone to ask, I stepped on someone's foot and got an earful, though I was quick to apologize. My heel's victim angrily directed me to walk over to the guard at the mall's entrance (not the office's entrance, go figure) and get a number. Forty-nine. Already feeling defeated, I stood next to a row of seats where a line had been formed. It was going to be a bad morning. 

But then something happened.

The elderly man next to me offered me his seat. "Nauna ata number mo sa akin" ("I think your number comes before mine."). I smiled and thanked him and said I was okay standing, but he insisted. Grateful, I took a seat. 

When the application forms were passed out, he didn't have a pen, so I lent him mine, as did his other seat mate. Later, the medical examiner asked me to let a senior go ahead of me and I agreed. After, we all dutifully waited for our new numbers to be called for another window, only to be told that we could just go ahead when there was an opening. We actually chuckled and joked about how obedient we were. The clerk and the people behind us laughed, too. Laughter, in a government office; that's a first for me. 

Then a lady came in and scolded her husband for letting another senior get ahead of him. "Diba ikaw yung nauna? Ang bagal mo, naunahan ka na ng senior." ("Weren't you first? You're so slow, a senior got ahead of you.") The tension returned to the air as his face quivered. 

I was happy to be out of there, ugly photograph and renewed license in hand. Still, the morning made me think and remember this story I'd read about a moment's magic broken and a video I'd seen on unconditional kindness.

This is not a groundbreaking revelation, paying it forward; yet, why is this movement not sweeping the nation? Why is it so hard to be the bigger person? Or, perhaps, even harder, to see the best in other people?

It takes a lot of faith to believe that the other person is not trying to get ahead at your expense, that a few more minutes of your time to let someone else go first will not result in the ruination of the rest of your day. It takes faith to see the good in other people when your whole life's experience has led you to believe that you need to look out only for yourself. But it can just take one act of kindness—or disrespect—to change the chemistry of a situation, perhaps enough to change every other act around you in that time and space. 

I am not always the kindest, especially on a morning of inconvenience like this one, so I thank the person beside me who led the way. Be that person for someone else. Let's be kind to one another today.