Yesterday, in a matter of minutes, I lost all hope in humanity, and then regained it again.
As soon as the door to the hotel gym shut behind me, I realized I had left my keycard behind on the floor where I had been working out inside. Unfortunately, I needed the key to unlock the doors to the gym. So there I stood sweaty and tired (because 15 minutes of tabata will quite literally kill you) and really dreading the trip up to the lobby to get a new key.
Then I saw that there was still one man inside on a treadmill. I thought to myself, surely he wouldn’t mind to hop off that treadmill and run over to open the door for me. It would only take him all of 2 seconds. And besides he had just seen me leave the gym so he knew I was not some vagrant off the street that sneaks into hotel gyms for kicks (although I probably looked like one. I’m not pretty when I work out and if you are, I hate you).
So I knocked. Nothing.
I knocked again. Still nothing.
I thought to myself, maybe he’s listening to music (God knows I can’t run without music. That would be torture). But then I looked closely and saw he had no earphones in his ears. Ahhh, I thought, he’s one of those crazy, no-music runners.
Knowing he could definitely hear my knocking, and really not wanting to have to go to the lobby all sweaty and stinky (I know, I can be vain), this time I knocked louder and more forcefully.
He finally turned and looked at me. Here’s my chance, I thought. So I put on my nicest smile that said with no words, I know you don’t want to stop your workout, but please have mercy on me and open this door, it will only take 2 seconds, I promise. And besides, I’m really nice; look how big I am smiling.
He didn’t even a crack a smile. He just turned back ahead to stare at the dirty hotel pool outside and continued to run without music.
At this point I probably looked like one of those cartoon characters with steam coming out of their ears. I was fuming. I knew he didn’t have to help, but how could someone be so cold? I mean, come on, guy.
Defeated, I turned to walk to the elevator, utterly disappointed in all of humanity, when two young kids walked up, brother and sister, probably age 10 and 12 respectively.
Trying not to look like some crazy lady, I asked politely if they had a key on them and if they could let me into the gym because I had left my key inside. Unfortunately, they did not.
But just as I was about to turn back to the elevators once again with head hung low, the young girl spoke up eagerly, “I can go get our key from my mom!” And off she ran with her younger brother at her heels. They actually seemed excited by the prospect of helping me. In fact, I’m pretty sure I made their day.
Hope in humanity: restored.
I know this all seems silly. And I wondered why it bothered me so much that the crazy runner guy with no music refused to help me with such a small request. I mean, my God, he was already running. He couldn’t just jog on over and crack the door for me? Really?!
But he didn’t owe me anything. I guess I shouldn’t expect soooo much from people (sarcasm font desperately needed here).
Then I realized, I’m just like crazy, no music runner guy; I’ve become hardened. He was probably like those kids in the hall at some point in his life, but aging became a process of hardening, and I think it has had the same effect on me. If I continue at my pace, I’ll be ignoring people at the hotel gym too when I am his age.
This past year, while traveling, I was convicted of how hardened I have become. When did it become so easy for me to walk by homeless people and do nothing, or even lie and tell them I have no cash on me, when I definitely do?
I remember as a kid, I couldn’t hardly walk or drive past a homeless person without stopping to help. In fact, I enjoyed helping. I was such a softy, in a good way. And its probably a good thing I lived in a well-off suburban community or else I would have never made it anywhere on time due to a compulsion to stop for each, and every homeless person.
One time I even called my dad, and made him leave work to come all the way downtown to meet me, so we could go buy some food and deliver it to a man in need that looked a little too scary for a 16 year-old girl to approach on her own.
I was so sensitive to the prompting of the Spirit back then. What happened?
I think as I grew older, I began to realize just how big the problems of the world are, and just how little I am, and for self-preservation purposes, I hardened my heart to those in need around me. I turned my attention to the one person I knew I could help, myself. Basically, I became selfish.
But I don’t want to be hard. I want to be soft. I want to be compassionate. I want to be my teenage self that can't ignore others' needs.
Perhaps I was naïve back in the day, perhaps that one meal didn’t solve anything, and perhaps people took advantage of me. But you know what? I’d rather be naïve, taken advantage of, and sensitive to the prompting of the Spirit, than a hardened, crazy, no-music runner son-of-a-bitch.
I'm Jaime. My husband is Tom. Suburbanites, backpackers, and expats...we've been them all!