On a visit to Texas, I was taken to a college football game. I sat next to a young couple I’d never seen before and I was dressed in regular clothing.
About 30 minutes into the game, the young man tapped me on the arm and said, “Hey, I’m going to the snack bar. Do you want anything?” I was shocked. We just don’t do that much as people who live close to Los Angeles.
I said, “No, I’m fine.” He laughed and said, “I didn’t ask if you were fine. You want a beer or a Coke?”
I said, “You’re serious. OK, I’ll take Diet Coke.” I reached for my wallet and he said, “Put your money away”. With that he left.
His young wife smiled at me and said, “You’re not from around here, are ya?” I said “No, I live close to Los Angeles.”.She said, “That explains it. People are just friendly here. You’ll get used to it.”
Since then I’ve tried my best to just do things for people I’ve never seen before. It surprises people, but it is generally welcome.
What if we all did that and made other people smile. It doesn’t have to be something we buy for someone. It might be helping someone at the grocery store who can’t reach something. It might be just saying “Hello” to someone as you stand in line at the bank. It might be helping a mother who has three little children running around a store and she is trying to manage a newborn in a stroller.
I moved to Downey in 1965. It was a slower time then, and not such a diverse community. I remember when there was only one Mexican restaurant in Downey. I’m sure glad all that has changed, and not just the food, but the cultures and the experiences of people that are different.
I love listening to stories about other people’s birth places and how they got here. I love watching the cultural exchanges and the humor of people who have to learn what American terminology means. Sometimes I’m confused as I listen to young people and the words they use which mean something completely different than I suspect. But there is one language that everyone understands, and that’s the language of an act done in kindness or a friendly smile.
Let’s be more of a community and willing to communicate with one another. Let’s help, rather than hinder. Let’s stick up for people who don’t know what to do or how to get help.
This is what it means to be a great city full of great people. It’s a wealth of goodness that we can all share, and it doesn’t cost anything to do it.
Fr. John Higgins