Evidence of Life
My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together. –Desmond Tutu
I’m B-19. The number I’ve been assigned that dictates how and when I will board my Southwest flight. Standing in line, I’m observing how people are thoughtfully arranging themselves. “Excuse me, the older woman says showing the young man her pass, what number are you?” slotting herself almost apologetically in front of him as he simultaneously shows and says “eleven”.
I think to myself, isn’t it amazing how people don’t seem to cheat? They could really, sneak a few slots ahead. But we don’t. Why? And, isn’t that great? Unlike the grocery line anxiety, that feeling of waiting and vigilant awareness of the cutters, this feels kind, even cheerful.
I’m on my way to Oklahoma City, another step toward completing a challenge I put to myself to run twenty half-marathons this year, at least nine of them in the states I have yet to visit. To bankroll these pop-up adventures, I rent out my condo on airbnb.com. So when I left my home yesterday, I handed over the keys to everything I own to complete strangers, a seemingly lovely older couple, Roger and Kim, from southern Indiana.
Truth is, I have no proof they are a “lovely” couple. No evidence they are not going to steal something from my home, use my wireless password to unlock the doors to my bank. People ask me, aren’t you nervous about ___, ___or ___? My response is no. In fact, opening my home to strangers has completely renewed my faith in humanity. It has placed me on the receiving end of incredible kindness.
I’ve come home to fresh flowers, new beach towels, a brand new coffee grinder. Notes of gratitude and encomium. Each time, returning to more than I left behind. And I understand this. Last fall my aunt and cousins and I stayed at strangers home, rented online through a vacation service. I noticed my Aunt Diane cleaning out the dryer vent, fixing random things over the course of the week. We carefully cleaned up behind us, leaving it spic and span. It just felt right and good to care for this home, a mix of gratitude and vicarious ownership.
Bidding farewell to my lovely Indiana couple, Roger replies, “When you run the race in Indianapolis, call us, you can stay at our place.”
Yesterday was my friend Chris’ birthday. Unable to join the celebration at RPM last night, I ordered up a TaskRabbit to personally deliver a small gift to him at the restaurant. To my delight, the young man who showed up to carry out this mission was the same young rabbit that demystified my cable/wireless/remote situation last week, deftly optimizing both my electronics and my ego. (It took him 10 min, but he insisted it was hard.) He smiled big when I greeted him with the package, surprised to find me at a location other than my home. When I asked how the TaskRabbiting was working out, he said, great, you are my second customer!
I think Chris was delighted too to get his fun surprise gift. I also like to think it came with a little extra magic that happens when things just feel connected and right.
UberX was my lift to the airport. My driver: a retiree who babysits for his 9-month-old granddaughter each week and has “a golf habit.” He started driving to fund his greens fees. We chatted about life, freedom to do what you love, and the interesting “humanness” that comes with one person calling another person to simply give them a ride.
There is much talk about the impact of technology and the new economy on our ability to relate to one another, to have authentic relationships. Sometimes, I can feel sucked down, eyes glued on the iPhone instead of gazing with the world. But I can’t help but also notice that sometimes technology and decentralization can actually make the world seem smaller and more connected. The authors of The Starfish and the Spider, one of my favorite “business” books, document and discuss this, citing examples like Wikipedia and YouTube. The book identifies a set of people “catalysts”, who tend to be skilled at creating decentralized organizations. Some things they have in common: genuine interest in others, a desire to help everyone they meet, and inspiration. In my experience, this rings true.
P.S. The note left by my AirBnB Guests:
Kelly, thank you for sharing your home. Your books alone make a statement of who you are and the four of us would like to meet you again. I’m sure you would have some things to teach us about passions in your life. As stated in the note we are serious about our invitation to stay with us during the Kentucky Derby Festival marathon. If you have any questions about what that might entail please ask. We enjoy hosting people from all over the world and you qualify. We can pick you up at the airport and give you any transportation you might want. We could feel your hospitality even though you were not there, please keep on giving. Thank You. –Roger