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Recycling Kindness

Updated: Nov 8, 2020

Running errands, last summer, took me to L.A.’s Skid Row. That's when a young man, crossing the street ahead of me, taught me a tender lesson on politeness.



With a limp in his walk, the young man used his left hand to hold up his over-sized, frayed pants. In his right hand, he held two smashed soda cans. Ahead of us, and coming in our direction, an elderly man carried a large bag of recyclables. I was taken aback when the younger man politely offered his two cans to the older gentleman, whose bag was already pretty filled. The young man, bowing, humbly offered, “Here you go...for you.”


I witnessed this person selflessly give all he had to another, who obviously had more. The older man appeared surprised, but smiled warmly, for me? This young man's actions embodied a mixture or kindness, respect and politeness.

The word polite comes from the Latin word politus, which means polished, made smooth, refined, elegant. That summer day, I had not suspected I would find such elegance on Skid Row.


When I reflect on the word polite, I think about kindness, respect, compassion, humility. Acts that honor the spirit of politeness can provide a ray of hope. If more of us do our part to create these rays, then perhaps our communal light can guide us to one another.


I lean on the words of French moralist and essayist Joseph Joubert,"Politeness is the flower of humanity"


Perhaps today is a good day to share a flower with a neighbor.


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