A few weeks ago, Tabby lost her hair to chemotherapy. We knew it was going to happen, and Tabby's got a marvelous attitude about the whole thing. But we weren't quite ready for how fast it would happen. One day, she had a full head of hair. Two days later, it was all gone. Skin bald. I did what many other husbands have done in similar situations: I shaved my head. Anyone who knows me knows how much I like having long hair...I'm a little obsessive about it. But there was no way I was going to let my Tabby go through being bald on her own, so off the hair went. She means that much to me.
Yesterday, we went to the grocery store. Tabby scooted along in front of me in a little electric cart (GET OUT OF THE WAY! SHE'S CRAZY! SHE'LL RUN OVER YOU! I SWEAR!) while I pushed the main shopping cart behind. As we moved down the aisle, I heard someone call me from behind. "Sir?" I turned around to see a man, a complete stranger, with huge tears in his eyes. He took my hand and shook it and said "You've gotta be strong, brother." Then he hugged me. It took me a moment to figure out how he knew, but it was the hair, or lack thereof. I don't know why the sight of the two of us made him cry. I don't know what happened in that man's life, but I can tell you this much: He made me feel loved. He made me feel a little less alone. He let me know that he knew something of what I was going through, and that made all the difference.
Here's the point: That man embodied, to me, in that moment, the very best of what humankind can be. He saw two people struggling and empathized with them. Nothing mattered, but to give me a hug and to let me know that he'd been where I am, to offer encouragement, and to make that positive connection. That man made me proud to be human, and with all the atrocities we visit upon each other, that's saying quite a lot.
I still don't know who that man was. I don't know if I'll ever see him again (it's possible...That's my neighborhood grocery store, and odds are good he lives in the area). But I can tell you this...That one random act of kindness, that one momentary connection, made a real impression on me. I'm not suggesting everyone run out and hug a bald kid/person, but what I am saying is this: We all have similar conditions. We all have feelings, and we all want to feel connected to the rest of our species. And while people like me neither want nor need your sympathy, everyone needs your empathy.
To that man, thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. You made a real difference with such a simple act. To me, sir, you are the best of humanity.