The other day, I was in Japantown hanging out with a friend of mine. We were in one of the public squares, and we happened to see two Asian men who were at least fifty or so years old. They stopped walking when they saw a cell phone that someone had misplaced. To be honest, I was quite cynical—probably as a result of having someone pickpocket my phone in Jerusalem—and thought they would have taken the phone, left the phone, or dropped it off at a nearby store at best. What I saw instead made me feel warm inside and made me wonder what the world could be like if everyone looked out for each other.
The two men looked through the phone to see if they could find any information about the phone’s owner. They found a college student ID and quickly realized that the student was from out of town and would need identification to return home. The easy, most convenient thing to do would have been to leave the phone at a nearby store and just assume the owner would return and ask the stores if someone had turned in a phone. Instead, the two men took the time to find a phone number to call so that they could tell the owner they had the phone and waited for him to pick it up.
What struck me the most was how genuinely concerned the two men were about returning the phone to its owner. They certainly saved him a lot of time, energy, and worry over a missing phone.
I know I was resentful when my phone was stolen in Jerusalem, but the thing is that I know no one dreams of stealing phones for a living. Maybe I’m just naive, but I would like to think that if the person was living under different circumstances (e.g. was better educated), he would have chosen another career that made the world a better place. I don’t see myself as a particularly philosophical person, but I do wonder if everyone somehow had all his or her basic needs satisfied and could live comfortably, would we be more inclined to treat others better and show the same concern the two men did for an unknown phone owner? Or is that a hopeless dream?
The jury’s still out on that one, but marching in the San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade has given me more reason to think that when communities and allies come together and support one another, something beautiful results.