Perspective: Recognizing Humanity

June 6 2013, 4:35 PM

Humanity: the quality or state of being humane; marked by compassion, sympathy, or consideration for humans.

I’ve been thinking a lot about humanity lately. Acting for the good of another human being. There’s one particular phrase, really, that I’ve been pondering—the adage we all know: It restored my faith in humanity.

It’s so easy for that faith to waver. Sometimes, we question humanity in a big-picture, global kind of way. At others, it is because of one small incident that make us stop and wonder: “What is wrong with people?” When someone breaks into your car, steals your identity, and wipes your bank account clean. Or when you’ve just arrived in a new city and the guy next to you at the library steals your phone. Or when a public figure starts a charity to help children, but instead funnels the donations into a personal account to take vacations.

Yes, these incidents are more annoyances than permanent scars on the fabric of humanity, but the more I think about them, the more I have to fight off becoming jaded. It’s not just me. Hop on Facebook or Twitter and count the number of “Dear Universe, thanks for nothing” and “#peoplesuck” posts you see. It’s disheartening.

So, I decided to jot down a few instances in Colorado that have helped keep my faith in humanity intact. They’re small things. Nothing that will change someone’s life or get us closer to world peace. But it’s important to remember that there are people in our community—strangers—who go out of their ways to help others, to be compassionate, and, as the saying goes, to make someone else’s day.

Here’s what comes to mind:

 To the driver in front of me last week at Blake and Speer: Thank you for holding out your untouched sandwich—what was probably your dinner to-go—to the man standing at the corner with the cardboard sign, even as the light turned green. I drive by that corner every day, and I’ve never seen anyone hand over even a quarter.

To the Frontier Airlines ticket agent at DIA who found my credit card on your counter after I left for my gate: Thank you for searching for my phone number, holding onto my card for three days while I was away, looking up my return flight, and personally delivering it to my arrival gate when I landed back in Denver.

To the anonymous person who read my story about hunger in Colorado several years back: Thank you for mailing that gift card to King Soopers with a note asking if I could forward it to one of the people I'd interviewed who was relying on food stamps. It was right before the holidays, and you wanted him to be able to eat a nice meal.

To the pedicab driver who picked us up in the rain: Thank you for offering us a ride even when we explained we had no money. It was a miserable, rainy night, and you pedaled us down the entire 16th Street Mall without getting paid.

To the woman who found a dropped iPhone on a snowy slope at Keystone: Thank you for scrolling to “Mom” in the contacts and setting off a phone tree that got back to the owner—and for rendezvousing with us in a parking lot off I-70, in the dark, after a long ski day, to return the phone personally. 

To the Aspen Snowmass employee who found my skis sitting in the outdoor rack long after I’d departed for Denver without them: Thank you for taking them in, FedExing them to Denver the next day, and not charging me a cent.

To a friend who stopped her car in a busy street and jumped out to help a woman she saw passed out on the grass: Well, turns out the woman was just napping—cue the embarrassment—but the fact that you pulled over out of concern is admirable.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock