Close Encounters of the Human Kind

michelangelo-71282_640This weekend, I ventured out of the house to pick up a new washing machine. We’d been trying to get by with an older unit that was clearly on its last legs. Because laundry for five is a never-ending process, we finally went online and ordered a new one. Lowes made it easy, and I didn’t even have to go inside; they brought it out and helped me lift it into the truck.

But this story isn’t about Lowes or my new washing machine.

On the way to Lowes Saturday morning, I stopped by Chic-fil-A to grab some breakfast. They’re known for their amazing service, and seemed to be ahead of the curve when it came to their coronavirus response. I wasn’t disappointed, as my wait in the drive-thru was short and the food was as tasty as always.

But this story isn’t about Chic-fil-A.

What’s been on my mind is an encounter with someone I’ve never met. You see, when I got to the pick-up window, the Chic-fil-A employee informed me that my order had been paid for by the customer ahead of me. Another human being decided to make a small sacrifice just to be nice. The act interrupted my train of thought – in a good way. No longer thinking about the inconvenience of replacing my home appliance, I was now contemplating the various ways in which I’ve seen people reach out to each other over the past few weeks.

  • People have given up their free time to sew face masks for health care workers.
  • Others have donated their money to provide food for truck drivers delivering badly needed supplies.
  • Teachers have gone out of their way to create resources for students working to finish school from home.
  • Neighbors have volunteered to go grocery shopping for those most at risk of infection.
  • Families have set up tables in front of their homes offering free toilet paper and cleaning supplies to those who can’t find any in the store.
  • Companies are providing online services for free to help people make use of their time indoors.
  • Business owners are sacrificing their own pay to keep their employees on the payroll.
  • Children are writing cards to those in nursing homes who aren’t allowed visitors, but desperately need connection.

The list goes on and on. I think of these as “close encounters of the human kind.” Lives are intersecting in ways that are new and unusual. But they are also fascinating and welcome. It seems the more life drives to drive us apart, the more people look for ways to come together. We are social creatures by design after all. We simply have to have connection. Without it, we suffer. With it, we thrive.

Since this whole crazy thing started, I’ve spent more quality time with my wife and kids. I’ve had longer and more meaningful conversations with other family and friends. Work has taken on a different level of purpose because I see more clearly the underlying connections being forged. I bet you feel the same way.

All of this went through my head in a fraction of a second at the Chic-fil-A window. Then I handed over my debit card and happily covered the meal for the people behind me. A small gesture, to be sure; but it made me feel connected. And I as I drove off, I couldn’t help but wonder… why does it take some kind of tragedy to bring out the best in us humans? And how do we continue to stay connected once the isolation ends?