To the Editor:
So, there was a small truck stopped at the top of the hill on State Road coming out of Vineyard Haven, waiting to make a left turn, holding up a long line of cars behind, so I slowed down, even though (or because) I also had a long line of cars behind me, and waved him over; and as he made the turn, he flashed his lights to say “thanks.” That was nice, I thought: You do someone a favor and they say “thanks” and you feel … what? … strangely honored.
Then I thought some more: A little thing like that has ripples. The other driver must have been a decent person to have bothered to flash his lights and say “thanks,” but I like to imagine that he was not already a decent person, that he was actually one of those big brutes that we all grudgingly know, a crude guy in word and deed, who yet, in defiance of the worser angels in his nature, actually suffered a pang of gratitude as a result of that tiny act of mercy and automatically, without thinking, without first taking counsel from those dark angels of his, almost involuntarily … flashed his lights to say “thanks.”
I like to think that he was the one because it magnifies the effect of that tiny, little act of grace. It may have gotten the brute to thinking, “People ain’t so bad; there’s some good ones …” and instead of scowling at the next person he met, he might have managed, quite involuntarily, to smile.
When Bertrand Russell was sent up to Cambridge, his tutor said to him, “Well, Russell, I see that you are a very bright young man. We have a lot of very bright young men here in Cambridge. We don’t need any more bright young men; what we need is more kind young men.”