Your Weapon of Mass Creation

Posted on Jul 11, 2013

P1050487_2Less than a week ago, I arrived at Houston Intercontinental Airport on my way back to Europe after 10 weeks in the US, with three pieces of very heavy (142 pounds worth) luggage. I have thought of that moment many times since. And I want to share it with you now.

At the car rental station, as I boarded the bus to the airport terminal, the bus driver took my bags and placed them on the bus for me. I was grateful; not all the drivers do this. When we arrived at the terminal and I started to get them off, this large, soft-spoken dark man gently said, “I got ’em, Ma’am.” He took them, 100 pounds at once, and set them on the sidewalk. As I handed him a small tip, I noticed the luggage carts available for rent. But before I could move, he said to me, “You know, Ma’am, if you’re thinking about getting one of those carts, they’re going to cost you $4. If I might suggest, you could call one of the SkyCaps over there, just give him what you would pay for the cart, and he’ll take them all the way to the counter for you.” It was, as we used to say, “a no-brainer.”

I followed his gaze over my shoulder to the terminal entrance, where a group of about six black men were standing in the Houston heat with carts, waiting to be hailed.  I raised my hand as he raised his eyes to get their attention. Within seconds a larger, younger dark-skinned man appeared to help me. He led me, with my luggage on his cart, past the crowds and right up to the Club Class desk. “But I’m flying Coach,” I said to him and then the airline counter staff. No one responded. He deposited the first bag on the scale. She checked me in. And I was on my way.

Each time I think back to those few minutes of my life, my heart grows full.

Here was a young man, choosing to do an honest job rather than a myriad of other things he could that might make him more money. And there are countless others who clean houses or drive garbage trucks or bag groceries. (Forty years ago, I met another man, a Guatemalan medical doctor who had fled his country as a refugee and was bagging groceries because his medical degree was not good in the US.)

How easy it is to connect with another human being in a meaningful way… easier in fact than it is not to. Still, conditioned to do it ourselves, we would struggle through and leave them to do the same. And I want to tell the world, “Before you pay a machine for something you need, look around to see if there is a person you can pay instead.”

Machines support corporations. Men (and women) support families. Which would you rather fight for with your money?

Your wallet is your weapon in the war on poverty. Use it well.

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