Choosing Humanity

Choosing Humanity

Yesterday, I stopped at my local Whole Foods for a few items for the week.

Ever the immoderate consumer (especially in Whole Foods), I decided to walk down a nearby aisle while waiting for my favorite local coffee beans. I remember silently congratulating myself on not forgetting to grab the crackers that I was so sure that I would leave without. I remember silently congratulating myself on veering away from the admittedly slippery slope tortilla chips. While I was perusing the shelves, someone at the other end of the aisle dropped a can of salsa. The simplest accidental slip of a hand, and I dropped the crackers I was holding and jumped out of my skin.

My feelings only a day and a half after two mass shootings in under 72 hours surfaced themselves in my reaction to a can of salsa falling on the floor of Whole Foods. After seeing the source of the sound, I realized what had happened and I was so embarrassed. I let the crackers remain on the floor. I put my hand on the shelf in front of me, I closed my eyes, and I breathed. I tried not to let the flush of embarrassment in my cheeks or the tears welling up in the corners of my eyes bother me. I pushed my shoulders down and opened my eyes, and saw my crackers being handed back to me by a woman next to me. She had been a few paces away, perusing cookies with her little one. Touched by her gesture, I kindly apologized and, thanking her, took the crackers back. What she said next hit me like a ton of bricks.

“We’re all there today.”

The simplicity of her solace struck me in the moment, but even moreso as I thanked her, paid, and walked out items in tow. I have no knowledge of her political affiliation, whether she was liberal or conservative, left-wing or right-wing. I don’t even know what her name was. The only thing I know is that she was one person showing compassion and solace to another person.

As I drove home, I wondered the significance of me not knowing any of those details about her. I wondered when it would be my town I was seeing on the news, if it would be someone I knew at school, in a movie, grocery shopping. I wondered that if it ever happened to my town, would those affected in the moment even consider those trivial elements that we now deem so consequential about each other? The truth is, I don’t think they would.

In true moments of terror and desperation, we don’t think about what side of the aisle our beliefs are. We don’t think about who they voted for or whose sign is on their front lawn. In true moments of terror and desperation, we just remember humanity - that we are genetically human beings and therefore made the same. It bears the question, how would the dynamic of our country change if we chose humanity first? If we remembered that we are the same - despite color, race, socioeconomic status, political affiliation, etc.

It also bears the question of how choosing humanity first that have affected those who commit these senseless acts of violence? What would have been the outcome if those people in question had experienced that humanity for themselves? How would it have affected the innocent lives lost and injured?

I don’t have all of the answers, but my moment in Whole Foods reminded me that it begins with us. It begins with the way we treat one another and the way we teach the next generation to treat one another. It begins with families who have worked so hard to build a sustainable life for their families turning to others who don’t have the same resources, who don’t look like them or think like them or vote like them and extending a hand anyway.

Sending so much love to El Paso and Dayton.

It beings with us. It begins with humanity.