“What is WRONG with people?”
I’m hearing those five little words all too often.
One of my friends posted that yesterday after witnessing a bank customer snipe at the teller, “My money is more important than your job.” Another friend just told me that she saw a mom at the pool refuse to get out at adult swim because it might upset her special snowflake of a toddler.
My friend Jim’s story from this week, though, tops them all. When you hear him recount what happened, it’s hard not to be moved to tears or anger, or both.
Jim drives for a living and was a rest stop a couple of days before the Fourth of July. Not surprisingly, because of the holiday, the stop was more crowded than usual and there was a line to the bathroom.
He was minding his business when he heard some commotion near the front of the line to the men’s room. “This little old guy with a World War II hat and medals on his blazer, hunched over and barely able to walk with his rolling walker, is standing at the washroom door, knocking on it,” Jim recalls. “These idiots behind him are standing there, rolling their eyes. As if it wasn’t bad enough, then they start saying, ‘Move it, old man’!”
That was it for Jim, who was no longer interested in minding his own business.
He jumped to the veteran’s defense immediately, confronting the rude young men (who were, incidentally, both over six feet tall and, it seemed to Jim, 275 to 300 pounds) who didn’t know or, worse, didn’t care that this elderly gentleman had served our country in last century’s greatest struggle. He raised his voice at those a-holes and told them that the people of this country owe a debt to such brave men and women who were part of the WWII generation, and, moreover, that they should actually be opening the door for HIM.
There was a moment when Jim wasn’t sure if the situation was going to get physical, but he was ready for it. And while the jerks didn’t apologize, they backed down.
The men's ignorance and Jim’s subsequent gesture didn’t go unnoticed by the old vet, who winked at him and said, “God Bless young men like you who show respect and thoughtfulness.”
After the incident, Jim shared his story on social media and, not surprisingly, the comments and “likes” lit up like proverbial fireworks. “Good for you!” was the most common refrain.
My friend, not unlike members of the WWII generation, is humble about his response and put it in context. “I never had a doubt about doing what I did and was ready for anything to happen by defending this man. He defended our country, and it was the least I could do for him,” he told me when I asked if he was worried when the guys threatened to escalate things.
I honestly don’t know what’s wrong with people, at a time when human life is devalued and even everyday encounters have a growing undercurrent of rudeness, impatience and a lack of common courtesy and kindness. Whenever I can, I give it right back to jerks, whether they just cut in front of an old lady at the coffee shop, ran a kid off the sidewalk in their haste to get where they’re going or don’t say “thank you” when I open a door for them.
But I know that standing up to offenders, especially egregious ones that Jim encountered, helps make it a little more right. The line between acceptable and unacceptable may be faint, but it’s still there and worth standing on once in a while.
Comment below if you have any similar stories of standing up to the bad guys for the good guy.