Insitutions vs. individuals

You know how sometimes it seems like the universe/God/chance wants you to get a message, so the same thing keeps happening?

For the past few weeks I've been getting the lesson again and again that while institutions may be inflexible, inhumane, disorganized, and cruel, individual people are kind, resourceful, funny, and generous.

Huge line at airport security? People in line are funny and holding stuff for each other while we take off our shoes.

Baby crying because we've been on the tarmack for 70 minutes? People start digging in their purses and pockets for stuff the baby can play with.

Presentation about to be screwed up because the hosting location lied about their tech capabilities? Taxi driver who drives like the wind and tells funny jokes will wait for me to get backup stuff from my hotel.

Just kind, engaged, helpful people all around. Even when they can't solve your complete problem because the system won't let them.

29 thoughts on “Insitutions vs. individuals”

  1. I was at the airport the other day, traveling alone with a toddler. I felt bad because I was super-stressed and angry at pretty much everybody there. But then everybody was so nice and understanding. I agree with you, Moxie, people are mostly good.I want you to know I feel a special bond with you, even though I’ve never met you, because we’re both taking similar career paths. But now you probably won’t be in Chicago for business travel. Sad for me.

  2. Every time I start feeling like everyone in the world is a total A**hole, I have an experience like the ones you mentioned. Reminds me that most humans are good and makes me feel better about being one.Thanks for reminding me of that today.

  3. I know I am guilty of expecting the worse from people, but am often happily surprised. I was freaked out to fly with an infant by myself but random people helped in droves – carrying things, making googoo faces at fussy DS, offering to hold him so I could use the washroom or have a quick bite to eat. It was actually an extremely pleasant experience – the worst part was simply the anticipation of all the death glares I was expecting to receive (but didn’t).

  4. People are good. I’m with the philosophers who took that side of the line. I can’t even remember which philosophers they were (I’m thinking mainly of the Chinese ones, since I didn’t study much of anyone else’s philosophers). But yeah, all other things being equal – even when equal means equally sucky – people tend to lend a hand, a smile, an encouraging nod.Glad you ran into that when you needed to. 🙂

  5. Another good reminder that your kind word, encouraging smile or helping hand could make all the difference to a stranger having a bad day or even an ordinary day. I hate to use a cliche, but pay it forward!

  6. This post brought to mind an experience I had yesterday. I took the crosstown bus here in NYC and when we got to my stop, the bus was so crowded that a man standing by the back door decided to step out of the way and off the bus and hold the door for everyone who was getting off. When everyone had exited, he stepped back onto the bus through the back door (that he had been holding). A random woman walked by on the sidewalk and upon seeing the man enter the bus through the back door SCREAMED at him, “You can’t do that!!!! You’re CHEATING!!!”. The man said, “I was holding the door” and she said, “oh, sorry” and walked on. This little exchange got me thinking about the ways people react to other people’s actions. This woman hurled ugliness at this man without the least bit of information or context. He had actually done something very chivalrous and she had completely assumed the worst and for some reason felt the need to call him on it in such a public way.It made me feel that so many times people are motivated by goodness (the man) and how important it is to give the benefit of the doubt and trust in that goodness as much as possible. I felt sorry for the woman and was secretly happy that she walked away in embarrassment.

  7. I was floored at how helpful and kind people were when I flew alone with the baby.I always hate to ask for help, because I don’t want to appear weak and also I don’t want to impose. But I need to remember how much people really do love to help others. My husband is leaving next weekend for a two-week trip and I’m going to keep in mind that my friends love me and will be happy to have me come for dinner when I get lonely.

  8. In August when I flew alone with the girls I, for the most part, found people to be so gently helpful. A number of people approached me and said, very gently, “Can I help you in any way?” And I also felt a very real sense that other people watching me were concentrating on sending good energy my way! I know that sounds corny. But I did really feel it.I try not to let the crappy people overshadow the good people. I think it’s easy to let the jerks fill up our screens, when, really, they’re a minority. Oh, but they do so draw our attention, don’t they?

  9. I like to feel this way, too. But then I drive in traffic and suddenly it seems like everyone around me is nuts, in a bad way.I think I should spend less time in the car.

  10. Oh Moxie. I wish I had your sunny outlook . . . or maybe it is where I live? . . . or maybe that I am the world’s biggest pessimist/cynic? But, I have not had your luck with kind, helpful people. At least not lately. But, here’s hoping that changes (in reality or that my perception changes).

  11. A couple weeks ago, almost everybody in my area (Ohio) lost power for several days, when the after- effects from Hurricane Ike, I think, came through. (Ours was out for 10 days.) I’ve lived in this neighborhood for 3 years, and I’ve never seen so many people around here come out of the woodwork to help each other out. What really struck me is how necessary it was for everyone in the immediate vicinity to reach out and help each other. Our neighbor let us plug our fridge into their generator, so I could keep my home daycare running, and we had camping gear so we could make coffee for them, etc. A relatively lesser natural disaster, true, but it went a long way toward strengthening my belief in the goodness of people.You’re right on, Moxie.

  12. A couple weeks ago, almost everybody in my area (Ohio) lost power for several days, when the after- effects from Hurricane Ike, I think, came through. (Ours was out for 10 days.) I’ve lived in this neighborhood for 3 years, and I’ve never seen so many people around here come out of the woodwork to help each other out. What really struck me is how necessary it was for everyone in the immediate vicinity to reach out and help each other. Our neighbor let us plug our fridge into their generator, so I could keep my home daycare running, and we had camping gear so we could make coffee for them, etc. A relatively lesser natural disaster, true, but it went a long way toward strengthening my belief in the goodness of people.You’re right on, Moxie.

  13. Not to just be a grinch and run – Recently there was a story in the local paper about an elderly, retiree who had been put in jail for not paying the fines his homeowner’s association had assessed him for his lawn turning brown. Like others, he is struggling to make ends meet and when his sprinkler system broke he didn’t have the money to fix it. Well, they fined him and he didn’t have the money to pay the fine either.I guess the story about him being put in jail got around, so some neighbors and complete strangers and a local city council person volunteered time, money and supplies and they pulled up the dead grass, re-installed new grass and a new sprinkler system and arranged for a hearing on Sunday and paid his fines and got him released.
    It was a really heartwarming story.

  14. Wonderful stuff. I know Moxie has talked about “Looking for the Helpers” when times get tough. These stories are also good reminders for us to “Become the Helper” from time to time for someone else who least expects it.

  15. @Mom2Boys – Holy crap! I’m confused though. Do you live in the US? Most democratic societies abolished “debtors prisons” ages ago. Being jailed (as a criminal) simply for owing money (as a civil matter) seems like a grave injustice. Has anyone called the ACLU?

  16. He apparently was given a court date to appear before the judge because of not paying the fines and he didn’t show up for his court date. I believe technically he was jailed for not appearing in court stemming from not paying the association fines.

  17. I had a very similar experience when I flew alone with my then 8-month-old. So many people came up to offer a hand or just say hi and make faces at D. It was a lovely realization of how kind people can be. I’m glad you were surrounded by good people.

  18. I think it is all a matter of your personal outlook. I know when I’m down, negative, I rarely see the good things that are about as I’m simply not open to them, or maybe too self-absorbed to notice them. OTOH when I’m happy and positive, I notice more of the nice things and less of the ugly ones. Moxie, you seem to be at a good place at the moment- maybe that’s why you’re having these positive encounters. I think they are always out there, it’s just we often don’t notice them.

  19. once i was listening to the radio and a few minutes before the ‘real’ news came on the dj got the newsreader to read out some good news sent in by listeners, ranging from birthdays of babies, good results in exams, a date that went well, 50th wedding anniversaries etc…all in a very official, newsreadery voice. tears just popped into my eyes, and when the newsreader finished, the dj and his copresenters had to take a minute to get back to normal….it choked everyone up! that made my day and i thought it was just so wonderful and out of the ordinary. you would have loved it peaceinyourcrib!

  20. I had to share this story.I made the mistake of taking my son to the grocery store after daycare to get milk. We needed the milk and I was already running late so I hadn’t stopped before. But of course this is the absolute worst time to go to the store. And so of course the schlepping to the back of the store and then to the cashier was painful.
    As I was trying to join a line my son laid on the ground and got ready for a big meltdown. And the woman in line ahead of me a) let us go ahead, b) distracted my son, c) told me about how this was normal and to enjoy him while he’s little and d) bagged my milk for me!
    I’m definitely paying that one forward.

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