Anne Mikolay
Anne Mikolay
Anne Mikolay

In June, 2018, when discussing the border crisis, Joe Biden said, “This is not who we are. America is better than this,” a mantra he has repeated, with good reason, many times since. Though Biden’s sentiment is inspiring, events in America’s recent past, I believed, consistently proved Biden wrong. Contrary to his statement, this is exactly who we are: a divided nation, an intolerant people with little empathy for those who differ in any way from ourselves. The world has to change, but how? In our present agitated state, we must keep our eyes wide open if we are to recognize even a sliver of hope when it pops up where we least expect it – like in a stranger’s Facebook post, of all places!

If you, like me, harbor doubts about America’s future and wonder just who we, as a nation, truly are, let the following Facebook post from a woman named Jessie set you straight. I do not know Jessie personally, but the story she related on Facebook motivated me to request her permission to share her words. She and her husband graciously agreed. For a much-needed, instant renewal of hope and good will, and a lesson in how to change the world, read on.

Here is Jessie’s post:

“We went for breakfast this morning. Hubby’s demeanor changed halfway through and he pushed his plate away. As we prepared to leave, he flagged down our waitress and asked for the bill for the well-dressed gentleman three booths away. Hubby saw the elderly African American man in the suit enter, hunched over, survey the room and choose a small booth. He ate by himself, glancing around occasionally. When my husband asked for the bill, the waitress said he (the African American gentleman) is the nicest customer, 90 years old, always comes in before church. I watched as my husband walked up to him. My hubby can look a little intimidating: a big guy, goatee, usually a scowl on his face. He looks most comfortable on a Harley. The gentleman shrank back until hubby introduced himself, told him that he was paying for his breakfast and wished him a blessed day. His hand trembled as he shook my husband’s giant paw. As my hubby paid, I watched the man looking at my husband in disbelief. When he returned to the table with the receipt, the gentleman introduced himself as Benny. He asked my husband why. “Because when you came in you looked at everyone in here and chose a small booth, out of the way. You don’t want to be noticed or a target. I paid to make life a little easier. Because of all you’ve seen and been through. The next time we’re here, come eat your breakfast with us. You’re welcome at our table.” Benny grasped my husband’s hand again, eyes wet. In the car home my husband said, “I was raised around racists, but I’m not one.”

Jessie posted this in a private Facebook group and received 8,000 “likes” within twenty-four hours. I am elated at this positive response! Consider the domino effect of good-will Jessie’s husband’s random act of kindness unwittingly released in the world! 8,000 people saw Jessie’s post on Facebook. If each of the 8,000 tells just one other person, that’s 8,000 more hearts inspired by kindness, and so on, and on, and on! My faith in people has been restored by a total stranger! In this dark world of insurrection and division, goodness survives! Joe Biden is right after all! The cruelty, the injustice, the bigotry…this is not who we are! As President Biden said in his Inaugural Address, “The American story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us. On “We the People” who seek a more perfect Union. This is a great nation, and we are a good people.” Yes, President Biden, we are! Jessie and her husband, caring people to be sure, remind us all that goodness shall prevail. How do you change the world? With one random act of kindness at a time!

My thanks to Jessie for posting her story on Facebook and thanks to her Harley-loving husband for allowing me to share it.


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Anne Mikolay

Anne M. Mikolay joined The Atlantic Highlands Herald as a columnist in 2008. Prior to penning “The Armchair Critic,” Anne wrote feature articles for The Monmouth Journal. Her work has appeared in national...