Casual Cruelty

rude people

Last week, the story of a woman who comforted a stranger’s infant in a flight to Atlanta went viral. The infant’s mother, Rebekka Garvison, was traveling to visit her serviceman husband who is stationed in Alabama. When the baby wouldn’t stop crying, her seatmate, Nyfesha Miller offered to hold the baby. The child immediately calmed down and slept for the remainder of the flight. In gratitude, Mrs. Garvison wrote a lengthy account of the episode and posted it on Facebook along with two photos of the event.

The story immediately went viral. When I Googled the event to confirm details, I found three pages of articles about this random act of kindness from New York to London to Australia. Now, this is not the start of a debate of what to do about crying babies on a crowded flight.

It is, however, an observation that begs the question, “have we become such a society of jerks that a simple act of kindness qualifies as an international news piece?”

Over the weekend, NY Mets’ shortstop Ruben Tejada suffered a broken leg after a collision with LA Dodgers’ Chase Utley. Within moments strangers were gleefully typing their nasty, horrid remarks about Tejada's injury. We have gotten so used to rudeness that the worse people behave on reality TV, the higher the ratings. When people choose to be rude, it is astonishing that there is no subtlety to their poor behavior – it is almost as if there is a level of entitlement that exists. We want what we want when we want it and heaven help you if you are in the way. We have the right to say what we think no matter how mean, hurtful, or pointless the comment might be.

Last year as I was exiting the Convention Center metro stop there was a policewoman who was detouring the crowd away from the building as a security perimeter had been set up. The man in front of me immediately got in her face, clearly not happy about the detour. She was polite, respectful and asked him to move on. Astonishingly, it got worse, he would not let it go. Now, I’m no saint and I’m not good at confrontation. But I think the years of being on the other side of the counter and of teaching people how to stay calm when being berated by a customer caught up with me. I walked over to the guy and said, “Hey, give her a break. This isn’t her fault. She’s asked you politely. Leave her alone.” He had a few choice words for me, but ultimately I think being called out on his behavior embarrassed him and he walked away. The policewoman smiled, surprised and grateful, and thanked me. Life went on.

Imagine if instead of shrugging our collective shoulders and sighing that this is the way of the world, we decided that casual cruelty will not be the legacy of the early 21st century?

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