It was the end of a long day. The crowd was ravenous. Feet tapping, arms folded, impatient to take their greasy fast food dinners home. I craned my neck to see what was causing the holdup. They were clearly understaffed.
I spotted an elderly man in his 70s with an apron clinging on to his frail frame. He was squinting at the orders on a flashing screen, struggling to make sense of a world that had long devoured his. Things were piling up, and people in the queue were growing restless.
And yet there he was, quietly steadying himself against the tide of confusion and rage. His quivering, wrinkled hands putting meat patty to toasted bun, and wrapping it carefully in yellow paper like a precious parcel. Small things done with great love, to the unforgiving soundtrack of tempers lost.
In that moment, I felt a rush of affection for him that made my heart hurt. Riding the dizzying corporate carousel, people can be a blur of passing faces. We look, but don’t see. We snap our fingers and expect instant gratification, but don’t notice the people who struggle to make it happen. We forget they have stories too. A whole person, with a well-meaning heart. Someone’s cherished grandpa, daughter or lover.
At the end of the day, we are all just fellow travellers making our way through the world as best we can. And when we start seeing people that way, truly see them, (whether it’s the lady who cleans our toilets, the ill-tempered guy in a suit, a child struggling to put pen to paper) we learn to understand their personal struggles. And that tiny seed of compassion is what blossoms in time into a deep, enduring love for all of humanity.