Making Humanity More Human
My husband and I were standing on a long line at the main post office in New York City recently. It was about nine in the evening. We watched intently as a very elderly and frail man, neatly dressed, slowly and pathetically shuffled his way across the wide shiny marble floor, leaning heavily on his cane to support his thin, stooped figure. Painstakingly, he made his way to the end of the line, holding a letter.
No one seemed to notice or care.
My husband held our place in the middle of the line while I made my way to a uniformed police officer. “Sir,” I asked, “could you please help that elderly stooped man get to the front of the line?”
“I can’t do that,” he responded sympathetically. You have to ask the manager of the post office.”
“Isn’t it amazing,” I said, “that no one on that line seems to care about helping another human being?”
“Ma’am, right after 9-11, people went out of their way to assist others. The memories are dim now and no one cares anymore.”
I made my way to the station manager, knocked on his door and made the same plea for the older man. The station manager immediately took action. He gently escorted the gentleman to the front of the line and made sure his letter was stamped and mailed. I returned to my place in line in time to see the manager wave to me and return behind a closed door. The postal clerk also waved and from across the wide floor, the police officer at the other end smiled and acknowledged me.
The elderly man very slowly made his way to the exit where the officer held the door open for him.
A small act of kindness reverberated in the post office that evening. I’m sure all the people on line will remember it and perhaps, at some point, they too will perform a small act of kindness for someone else.
When good deeds are performed by large groups, it takes extraordinary organization as well as the labor of individuals. Today, December 1, I visited JHS 104, Manhattan with Chancellor Joel Klein to celebrate the largest contribution to City Harvest from any school in the city. City Harvest gives food to the homeless, shelters, soup kitchens and food pantries. In one week, these students collected 6000 pounds of canned, boxed and packaged foods!
One of the greatest lessons we can teach our students and our own children is to care about others, not just at this season but throughout the year. In this issue of Education Update (page 6), we write about Molly Jong and Jonathan Burkan, two young adults trying to make a difference for others all year long.
Let’s all join to bring cheer to those in hospitals and nursing homes, to those without enough food and clothing, to those in need of love and kindness in 2007.
Happy holidays and “God bless us, every one!”