Vending Some Hope For Humanity

, , , , , , | Hopeless | March 16, 2018

The week before Christmas, my brother-in-law and his family stayed with us for a few days. They wanted to meet up with his grandmother while they were here, so we tried to think of a warm place to sit and visit with her. We decided on the lobby of one of the buildings on Temple Square, since it was near Grandma’s apartment. We also wanted to visit the Light the World vending machines in that lobby. These were five charitable vending machines that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints had temporarily placed that allowed the user to choose specific donations to some organizations.

When we arrived at the lobby, we found that a local high school madrigal group was performing Christmas carols. We very much enjoyed visiting quietly on the ground floor while the choir sang in the mezzanine above. As we neared the time we had to leave for other appointments, my nieces and nephew were steered toward the vending machines to choose their gifts for the charity.

One niece chose 100 meals for the food bank. The other chose a pair of glasses for the eye-care group. As my four-year-old nephew was trying to choose his gift (he eventually chose to help the water charities), I realized the choir had stopped singing. I looked around to find that most of those teenagers had joined us at the vending machines, even having to stand in line to reach them. They had just finished their third of five concerts in various buildings on Temple Square that same day, and instead of resting or visiting the small cafe in that same lobby, they had come to spend their money on other people. No one forced them. No one was watching to make sure the money wasn’t used elsewhere. They chose to do it.

Makes you think there’s hope for the future, after all.

Everyone Is As Bright As A Button

, , , , , , | Hopeless | March 14, 2018

(I’ve had the same type of purse since high school: a canvas shoulder bag completely covered in about forty or fifty picture buttons. I switch them out every six months or so. I like them because they’re bright and colorful and they start conversations. At least once a week someone on the train will comment on a button featuring a book or a movie they recognize, and I’ve even had complete strangers give me buttons to add to my collection. Two encounters really stand out, though. The first is on a bus. Sitting across the aisle from me is a mom with two toddlers who will not settle down, no matter what she pulls out to distract them. One of them finally manages to squirm away, hops off the seat, and then stops dead when she sees my bag covered in shiny, colorful buttons.)

Toddler: “Your bag’s pretty! What’s that one?”

Me: “Oh, that one is a picture of the pyramids, because someday I want to go to Egypt.”

Toddler: “Cool! What’s that one?”

Me: “That one’s a picture of a story I like, about a girl who gets turned into an owl.”

(After a minute, her brother wanders over to join her looking at my bag, and they spend the next twenty minutes calmly asking me about each and every button on my bag. Almost as soon as they finish with the last button, their mom announces they are getting off at the next stop, and the two kids run back to their mom. As they are getting off, she mouths a fervent, “Thank you!” at me. I have to smile. The second encounter takes place at a train station at nearly 1:00 am, when I am heading back from a friend’s. I’m a very short woman, and I am the only one on the platform, so I am a little nervous when a man comes onto the platform and heads right to me, not least because he has facial tattoos tying him to a particularly brutal and violent local gang. I am trying to discreetly reach for my pepper spray when…)

Man: “Dude, your purse is awesome. I saw the buttons from clear across the station. Where are they from?”

Me: “Oh! They’re, uh, they’re from all over. Some I found, some I bought, and some I made.”

Man: “This one, is this from Amsterdam?”

Me: “No, Venice. I’ve never been, but one of my friends brought it back for me.”

Man: “Makes sense. I figured it had to be either Venice or Amsterdam, with the canals. Either way, it’s pretty cool. I love the idea of a city built on the water.”

(We chat a few more minutes, and then he asks…)

Man: “By the way, you looked kind of nervous when I walked up. Was it the tattoos?”

Me: “I, uh… Yeah. Yeah, it was.”

Man: “I figured it was. Joining that gang was the worst mistake I ever made. I managed to quit and I’ve been working at [Local Factory] for the last eight months. First, I’m saving up to get the tats lasered off, then I’m saving up to visit Europe. I want to see Delft and Amsterdam and Venice… and if I like it, then I’m saving up to move there!”

Me: “In that case, here. Until you can get there yourself!”

(He grinned, and pinned the Venice button to his jacket. Unfortunately, my train pulled up, so we didn’t get to talk anymore, but it was a conversation that stuck with me. I’m usually pretty shy, and I’ve had a couple of friends comment that it’s odd that I carry a purse that attracts so much attention, but I like seeing people smile when they recognize something on one of my buttons.)

Kindness Comes In All Shapes And Apartment Sizes

, , , , , , , , , | Hopeless | March 12, 2018

On the last weekend before school started in 2017, my step-dad at the time kicked us out of the house, completely out of the blue. Even though it was illegal, he gave us only 24 hours to get our stuff.

So many people through that event have helped restore my faith in humanity.

First, about half an hour after it happened, I was boxing stuff up while making various phone calls to friends and family. All said that they were currently busy but would drop whatever they were doing to come help. My best friend, who I’ve known since I was five, offered to take the three-hour drive from Washington to come and help.

The first couple nights, our grandparents offered to let us stay with them, and even though it was a small two-bedroom house we all fit snugly. We stayed with them for about a month into the school year until we got an apartment that accepted dogs.

When we were moving into the apartment, which was on the third floor, it was only five of us with the fifth being my 64-year-old grandpa. Right as we pulled up, we met one of our neighbors, and she said that she had a cart that we could use to get stuff to the stairs, which was super helpful, but then she offered to help us it get up the stairs as well! This kind lady has since interacted with us and is one of our nicest neighbors, but before she knew why we were moving or how much it could’ve meant to us, she went above and beyond the neighborly thing to do.

Thank you to everyone who helped us during a difficult time.

Some Superheroes You See Outside The Movies

, , , , , , | Friendly | March 12, 2018

(Waiting for my bus in the pouring rain after having a terrible day at work, I see a little boy across the road, dragging his mum down the street, shouting excitedly.)

Little Boy: “Hurry up, Mum! I want to see the superheroes and tell them what I did today.”

Mum: “I’m going as fast as I can. Which one’s your favourite?”

Little Boy: “I love them all. They’re my bestest friends in the ever!”

Mum: “Okay, we’re nearly there, sweetie.”

(The little boy and his mum stopped in front of the war memorial. The little lad was jumping up and down shouting, “Hello!” His mum started reading the names off, and the little boy kept repeating them telling them that he went to school for the first time that day. I cried.)

Just Another Christmas Miracle

, , , , , , | Hopeless | March 8, 2018

A coworker’s husband, who is a department head at another grocery store, had a customer come through the cash lane with just about $50 worth of groceries. Her card was declined. She started crying and asked him to try it again. It was declined again. She explained that the problem with the card should have been fixed, and she didn’t know what to do, because she and her kids hadn’t eaten a real meal in three days.

Anyone in a position of power that works in retail has heard this type of story a million times, and at least 999,990 of them are scam artists trying to get stuff for free.

She asked him to hold her items while she made some phone calls in a last-ditch attempt to fix whatever was blocking her from her money. She called home. A kid answered. He could hear the voice on the other end say excitedly, “Mommy! Are we going to eat for Christmas?”

He decided to take the risk, and paid for her food, with several coworkers pitching in, which made her cry harder than before. I think of that family every year and I hope they’re doing better now!

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