Our six-year-old, or Son #2 as I call him, has always pitched to help others the best he can in any situation.
On a hot summer morning over a year ago, as our family (and the rest of South Florida) prepared for Hurricane Irma, he decided to cut through the household tension by offering to put socks on my feet. I obliged. It was a remarkable endeavor to behold — he successfully socked me in just under 8 minutes.
A sensitive kid, he understands how people need to pull together in times of trouble.
Later that afternoon, the scene at a Home Depot reminded me of this natural fact. Odds were that many in the store had not been through a major category storm. Hurricane Andrew was a generation ago, and it had been more than a decade since Wilma. I saw people eyeing each other’s carts and questioning whether their own supply list was adequate.
But above all else, everyone was calm and helpful. Nothing says “we're in this together” quite like the anxious uncertainty of an approaching Cat 5 storm.
The self-checkout lane, however, was a pressure-cooker of impatience and frustration. Normally four stations are open, but on that afternoon only three were operable.
During normal times, as I await self-checkout, I like to stand amid all the stations, ready to pivot left or right to the side that shows the greatest promise of an open spot. But that technique wasn’t appreciated by the throngs behind me. I could hear the moans in protest of my noncommittal stance.
So I moved forward and chose the right-hand lane. Just my luck, the woman at the station ahead was having trouble with her debit card, and the store associates were all helping other customers. She appeared to be about 80 years old, well-heeled and saddled with a mild tremor (that I had hoped was benign).
That’s when something remarkable happened.
Standing in line between her and I was a young workman, looking like he had just tarred twenty roofs and was now picking up plywood for his own home. He stepped up, and with God’s patience helped her navigate the keypad, even held her hand to calm the tremor as she made her selections. She completed her purchase and looked into his eyes with the gratitude of generations gone by.
This young man had been raised right.
During those few days, for every shoving match that erupted at a gas station line or a supply store, there were hundreds more acts of decency, kindness and respect. They may not have made the news, but they make up humanity.
When I returned home, Son #2 rushed me and demanded a full accounting of my whereabouts. I told him the story of the good people I saw in this world.
"How are your socks?" he asked.
“Perfect,” I said. "Just perfect."
Slade Wentworth is a leader, coach and mentor in publishing and healthcare recruiting. He lives in Florida with his wife and two sons, where he also writes about family life when he's not making a mess in the kitchen. You can find his humorous takes on parenting and marriage on Twitter @SladeWentworth or connect with him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/sladewentworth.