The Christmas Cauliflower Miracle

Mrs. Spocko lost her wallet today. We retraced her steps. On the way to the farmers market where she thought she lost it there was a rainbow. I said, “The end of the rainbow is right where it will be!” And it was!

A woman at the organic produce stall she was shopping at found it and turned it into the market’s information booth. All the contents were untouched. A Christmas miracle!

We went back to thank the woman at the stall who turned it in. She was happy too. We bought an extra large cauliflower from her.

On the way back we stopped at the bar by the farmers market where we had asked if someone had turned it in. We told the bartender we found the wallet and she said, “It restores your faith in humanity.”

I thought, “What does that comment actually mean?” If someone says that a certain action “restores their faith in humanity” it means they are holding onto an idea that humans are terrible and bad acts are normal.  The returning of the wallet restored the idea that humans are good and good acts are the norm. I understand the benefits to thinking people are no damn good. It’s fun to be the cynic.

I actually have a lot of faith in humanity–especially when it comes to people returning lost items. Maybe it’s because it’s happened to so many people. They think, “That could have been me and my wallet!” So they do what they hope someone would do for them in the same situation.

For me the “Christmas miracle” was the reminder of the power of human empathy. Someone put themselves in another’s shoes and helped. It not only made the person being helped feel good, the person who helped another also felt good.

Michael Schur, the creator of the groundbreaking sit-com about ethics, The Good Place, talked about the thinking behind the show and people’s actions. He was at Starbucks and realized he was waiting until the barista saw him tip.

“I wanted the credit.’ You want that person to see that you’re such an amazing benevolent person that you tip 30 cents into a tip jar, and it just sorts of struck me as funny that there were things that you just want credit for. You want to feel like you’re getting the points for your action. You feel like if no one sees it, it feels like it didn’t happen.

And the truth is whether you get credit for it or not shouldn’t be the point of a good action; you should just do it because it’s good.

I’ve always hated the phrase, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Why do people say it? I think it’s because they are looking for a reason to NOT do a good deed, especially one where there is no reward. “What’s the point of doing a good deed if it comes back to bite you?”

Schur argued that oftentimes individuals think and act selfishly, but that people caring about the well-being of one another isn’t just helpful in making the world a better place — it’s necessary in making sure society runs effectively.

Sometimes we do the right thing knowing that it will make us feel good and we will be rewarded for it. Other times we do the right thing knowing we won’t get rewarded for it. Whether you are rewarded or not shouldn’t be the point of a good action; you should just do it because it’s good.

Schur said so many fundamental problems in America are from people thinking, ‘How can I win? How can I do be better? How can I defeat other people or rise above other people?’” He added, “And they have a fundamental belief that what life on Earth is about is competition and if someone else is winning, that means they lose.”  People who look at life that way wonder why anyone would do anything if they didn’t benefit.

I see good people

This season I want to acknowledge the good things people do and the good things people try to do. That’s another point of the show, trying to be a better person, regardless of how you try, is better than not attempting to improve at all.

Besides one individual human helping another, some people want to do good things for lots of people. This is wonderful, but this makes certain people nervous, “What’s their angle? What’s in it for them?”

I understand why people want to help others, especially if they have ever put themselves in the shoes of other humans who are in pain. They think, “That could be me. How can I help?”  When I get cynical about the possibility of good things happening for a lot of people I realize it’s because I’m trying to protect myself from feeling hopeful about a good outcome.  But having this attitude means I’m always expecting bad things to happen and for people to behave badly. That’s not the humanity I see.

Today, at the end of a rainbow, I saw a simple act of humans helping each other. When we care about the well-being of one another things can get better for all of us. This coming year I’m going to give myself permission to be excited and hopeful about all the good things people can do for others.

Merry Cauliflower Christmas to you all.



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