When Bryan and I came back from the Bahamas we experienced culture shock. After being on a peaceful island where strangers become friends in a blink, everyone is happy, and life is rather uncomplicated it isn't any wonder that we would be hit by some of the negative aspects of our culture on our return.
Of course one of the first things that triggered it was a trip to a shopping mall.
Over consumption aside, there were other things that popped up to make us take note that this country has got to make some adjustments. I can be patriotic as the next person, but there are a few things that have happened in our culture and specifically this country that range from mildly disturbing to morally alarming.
Last night I got an email from Daniel's college. A notice sent out to all of the parents of MICA students that there had been a "road rage" shooting on the MICA campus and two people were dead. Thankfully they were not students, but it still made my blood go cold. It happened at roughly six oclock the night before just minutes after Bryan was picking Daniel up to bring him home due to illness.
For the first time in my life I am thankful for the flu.
Right now Daniel is sleeping soundly in his bed, while I make chicken soup, pump him full of orange juice, and nurse him back to health. All the while being grateful that he is alive.
As a country we are not plagued by internal war, and yet we have things like the Virginia Tech shooting, Illinois, and Columbine. What is up with that? There seems to be an underlying virus in our culture that is making people insane, or at the very least, cold and heartless.
It seems systemic doesn't it?
Maybe it starts with rules and laws that were originally meant to protect us that ultimately are hurting us. Being free to be an "individual" has mutated into an unhealthy focus on self that somehow has eroded away the good things that we use to have.
Laws to help the innocent have become lawsuit opportunities.
Technology that is supposed to improve our lifestyle can remove the need to be civil and friendly.
In an average day a person can face numerous situations (motorist honking their horn, a rude teller, recorded phone messages) that by the end of the day can make you feel less than human.
Today I feel that way.
On a third try to obtain a last little piece of required paperwork for our Bahamas registration, I sat at my bank waiting my turn to see someone about a "letter of reference". On the second try after filling out a long menacing form they had issued me a cryptic note with my bank balance on it, and charged me ten dollars. I sent this off and got a reply from my rep in the Bahamas, that they didn't need numbers, just a letter that basically said I was a good customer at my bank.
Ok, seems reasonable. I HAVE been a customer for fifteen years...
So sitting down with a guy at my bank I explained that the letter they gave me was not quite what the bahamian gov't needed, something simpler...
No way. Not on your life. They don't do that.
"Surely this kind of letter is not a problem... I have been a customer for fifteen years..."
Apparently that would require an "opinion" which they legally can not do.
"OK, but this is what the bahamian gov't requires and people do this all the time so... what's up with that?"
The conversation didn't last long but the jist was "so sorry, it sucks to be you". And what I really had a problem with was the attitude in which it was delivered. The particular bank associate that I was dealing with seemed to relish the fact that he couldn't help me. Almost in a punishing way. In fact I got a sense that he didn't want to help me before I even opened my mouth. Anti-helpful.
Which brings me back to my original point(seemed like a rabbit trail didn't it?)
Have we lost the ability to be kind to one another? Has all the hoops that we have to jump through just to have the privilege to live what we call the american dream turned it into a nightmare that keeps us from being human?
Not blaming the associate for the restriction that was out of his hands, but royally pissed off at him for the condescending/almost cruel way he treated me, I left the bank on the verge of tears. Frustrated, hurt and really really mad, I walked over to the grocery store to pick up some groceries. Picking through the produce section and wondering what this world was coming to I filled my basket and headed to the checkout.
I got Virgil.
Virgil is a middle aged, african american man who has worked the checkout and bagged groceries there forever, and he always has something nice to say. Always, without exception. He took my groceries and started his totaling. Still feeling rattled but determined to recover from being pissed and not take it out on someone else I smiled and mustered a..." How are you today Virgil?"
"Super-Fantastic! How are you today?"
He helped put my groceries in my backpack (because I was walking home) giving me the heaviest items first, the light items for me to carry in my hands. Then with a big smile he wished me a good day.
God bless the Virgils of the world.