The other day, preoccupied with deadlines and meetings and all kinds of other things. I trudged down the sidewalk toward our office basically unaware of my surrounds.
Maybe this has happened to you at some point, too: Sometimes when I’m a bit overwhelmed, I can travel from one place to another and not even remember the trip. I just left and arrived, and how it happened is a bit of a mystery.
Anyway, as I continued to the doors of the bank building, hands thrust firmly in pockets, I blankly walked through the first set of push-open double doors and then through the second set before I realized I had traveled through both sets of doors without actually touching them.
Just as I came to the realization someone had held the doors open for me, a rather snide voice from outside the first door echoed through the foyer.
“You’re welcome,” the man sneered as he proceeded out the door and on with his life.
Now, there’s no excuse for not acknowledging someone’s good deed with a simple “thank you.” I know this and, generally, I do it.
But on this occasion, preoccupied with my own problems, I hadn’t. And this Good Samaritan – apparently not satisfied with just doing a good deed – became an angry Samaritan because I hadn’t acknowledged his kindness to me.
At first, I felt bad for not thanking the guy. But later, I felt something else: What’s the point of doing something nice for someone if the whole point of the gesture is to garner recognition?
The events in Louisiana and throughout the country provide some great opportunities to watch how people respond to kindness.
There were, of course, people pictured on TV angry with rescuers for not arriving more quickly. And there were police officers scuffling with survivors forced to evacuate flooded houses they didn’t want to leave. And, of course, there were politicians and journalists blasting each other because in one of the biggest natural disasters in our country’s history, things didn’t flow as smoothly as they could or should have.
Anger and finger pointing simply make great TV.
But in our neighborhoods, the response was different.
People almost instinctively flooded churches, schools and businesses with toiletries and clothes and food and money for those who needed them. The relief centers I visited were literally overflowing with donations, and this was just a couple of days after the flooding – long before the televised appeals were sent out.
One after another, people came with bags and bags of stuff, doing their good deeds with no expectation of a “thanks” or an “attaboy,” while elsewhere in Dallas, waves of evacuees sat dazed with their newfound provisions, never knowing who to thank, who helped or why.
In the end, the need was met. Should it really make you feel any different that the “thank you” won’t be hand-delivered?