A Beautiful Thing I Just Saw

I woke up to this email from Cait, who is in her last semester of college. I don’t believe it requires any prelude or conclusion. It speaks for itself:

Subject: A Beautiful Thing I Just Saw

It’s nearly midnight on a Monday evening in the deep quiet zone of the library.

There is an older man, perhaps in his 50’s, working on a tablet propped up on a black backpack. He wears a beige baseball cap pulled too far down on his forehead, and his elbow rests next to a diet coke from which he never takes a sip. He dutifully types on his tablet with just the middle finger of his right hand. Maybe a professor, maybe a student, maybe neither.

There is a woman, perhaps in her 40’s, with curly black hair and the hint of an accent. She wears a maroon button-down shirt with starchy black pants. She washes the desks with a small rag and dramatically changes the garbage bags with a flick of her wrist. Her ironically oversized glasses and long rectangle earrings frame her patient face. She yawns as she cleans.

She passes by the man, amid several silent students, and goes out of her way to acknowledge him.

“Hello,” she says, just a little too loudly.

“Hello. How are you today?”

“Good, how are you?”

“I’m good.” He pauses, searching for something to say. “We had a lot of rain today.”

“Yes, a lot,” she responds emphatically.

She is visibly delighted with how the conversation went.

That was the entirety of their interaction, yet the quiet and profound recognition of their mutual humanity was enough to bring me to tears.  It’s in these teeny tiny moments of kindness and humility that remind me why the world is so wonderful, even at midnight in the library.

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