I’ve followed the fallout from the election with a careful eye, watching the banter from both sides. People have made valid and absurd points. At times I’ve questioned the country, its people and where we are headed. I’m not a person who necessarily seeks to convince another person of my point of view and I refrain from divulging my political affiliations. As a former lawyer, I’ve watched people on different sides argue a point either come to an agreement through settlement or have it decided by their peers or a judge. In those instances, I am uncertain if anyone has ever changed their fundamental positions on a belief they felt in their bones.
In most cases, these perspectives didn’t necessarily speak to the person’s whole, but signified a differing point of view in a single instance. It’s a lesson I’ve kept in mind and it’s allowed me to believe if a person has an opposing opinion, I make my best efforts to consider the entire picture – the context, the experience, the essence which forms individual stories. People are driven to a specific point through the vignettes which comprise their lives. We aren’t always privy to the details of how a point of view takes birth. Our conclusions about a person’s opinion are speculative at best – there may not ever be a complete understanding of how they arrived at a particular position – people parse out half-stories, only revealing what is considered safe in public. My point – we are rarely privy to the complete story.
In this political climate, I am certain relationships between family and friends have taken unexpected turns – some friendships ending or ties fracturing because of a preference for a political candidate. The negative vibe spills into social media, the news, and in water cooler talk around the office. The words evil, barbaric and cruel tossed around like a ball, the meaning lost because words have been overused and in the wrong context. Some people are devastated by the points people have adopted as their own, a rigorous debate turning into silence, anger, and ultimately disappointment.
Buying into this rhetoric ripens the tendency to dismiss the goodness of people and how individuals (despite their political affiliations) are working to help strangers, reach out to friends or provide an empathetic ear to a neighbor. In one day, I witnessed two instances of goodwill from complete strangers in the most unexpected place.
On a recent weekend, my family took a morning flight to Texas. It was an early departure and I am not certain either my husband and I were completely awake while we navigated security at the airport. We got to our gate unscathed, only to realize we were missing an important piece of luggage. My husband realized he left a black bag on the conveyer belt as it passed through security. He raced back with the best expectation – that it would still be there when he reach the appropriate place. His beliefs were confirmed; the bag was there and he returned to his place in line.
While he fetched his bag, I decided this was a sign to perk up with a cup of coffee. I bantered with the lady behind the counter asking for cream and sugar. As we waited in line, I sipped my coffee, not realizing anything was amiss. Within five minutes, my name was called on the intercom. Puzzled at this public broadcast, I headed toward the ticket area.
“Ma’am, is this yours?” The lady with the bright lipstick asked.
In her hand, my wallet with my credit cards, cash and other important identification met my gaze.
“What? Yes. This is mine.” In shock, I stood for moment in mid-surprise.
After showing her my identification, she handed the wallet over to me, stating it was at the restaurant where I bought my coffee. My mind massaged these facts – 1) I didn’t even realize my wallet was missing; 2) I was surprised it wasn’t stolen; and 3) We were about to board – if the call from the ticket counter happened just a few minutes later I would have embarked on the plane not realizing I left my wallet behind.
You might be asking at this point, what does this have to do with the election? I am not certain whether the people who left the bag alone or turned in my wallet were supporters of Trump or Clinton. I know nothing of their political affiliations. All I know is these individuals cared enough to do the right thing.
With every television in the airport still blaring the political divisiveness, I had one thought – there is still goodness and I still believe the best about people.
Image: Frosty Sutliff Fence by Rich Hermann via Flickr.
This post originally appeared on The First Day.