I was on a flight yesterday from San Antonio to Charlotte. A woman sat next to me and ahead of us were, it seemed, her parents. As we were taking off, the woman pulled out a pack of gum, offered a stick to each of her parents and turned and offered me one.
It was, as the cliche goes, a random act of kindness, without strings. And it made me think, that’s what a stick of gum is for. To share. When people pull out a pack of gum, it triggers some primitive urge to reach out to someone. The gum doesn’t cost much and the act of sharing doesn’t come saddled with commitments. Yet the small gesture makes both parties grateful, a small ritual of acceptance and recognition that we are human and somehow connected. And it’s all wrapped in minty freshness.
What if we consciously turned every interaction we made into that ritual? If every time we met someone, or spoke to them on the phone, or sent something in the mail or posted something on the web for them to see, we made them feel like we had offered them a stick of gum, that we said, “I know you”, “I’m just like you” and “You are special.”
I barely spoke to the woman on the plane. I will never see her again. Yet, for that one small moment, we shared something and it made me feel good and I won’t long forget it.
I think I’ll carry a pack of gum with me, from now on.