(Written on Monday)
Back when I was in University studying History, I recall learning about the Great Man theory. The theory states that the events of human history are pushed along by uncommon individuals that steered the progress of humanity by virtue of their intellect, charisma, and political savvy. The Great Man theory never sat well with me, as I believe that the little acts of everyone is what benefits and moves humanity forward far more than the actions of a select few.
Case in point, on a whim I decided to walk home from work today, a distance about nine kilometres. The decision was entirely arbitrary and based primarily on the forecast for rain in the coming days and a desire to catch up on history podcasts. There was no higher-minded factors that went into the decision: I like walking, I like sunlight and I wanted to learn about Genghis Khan, end of story.
But that is not the end of the story. My extended walk along the greenway that weaves in and out of the gridlocked Bishop Grandin Blvd during rush hour led to an unlikely encounter occurred. As I waited at a crosswalk, a young man of fourteen leaned over and asked me if I understood buses. I was hesitant to respond, as his words generated in me a flashback to an incident where I took a bus to the middle of nowhere in a white-out blizzard. Following the three mile hike back civilization, weighed down my four boxes of board games and a steadily growing blanket of snow, I accepted not exactly navigation material. I could see the boy was clearly distressed however, and offered to assist him in finding someone more knowledgeable. After speaking with three individuals including a bus driver, it became apparent that no one had any idea of how to get to his destination.
Fortunately, the boy then recalled a street that his home was located near and I immediately recalled at least one bus that would take him there. The only problem was that said bus only ran through a bus stop near my house on St. Anne’s street, several kilometres from the bus stop we now stood at. Well, maybe it was a problem for the young man, but when I offered to take him to a bus if he “liked walking”, he thought for a moment and then accepted.
The walk that followed was entertaining as those who know me know that I don’t handle silence very well. Maintaining a steady flow of conversation, I learned that my new acquaintance *Sean had just come from a job interview far from his home and had become disoriented and lost in the foreign neighbourhood. We discussed employment, Sean’s desire to study psychology and the social dynamics of high school. Personal regrets, baseball in Kuwait, and the concept of pursuing a career helping others entered and exited the conversation as we approached our destination. Pointing to the bus schedule, I informed Sean that the bus would arrive in thirty minutes time and to avoid any earlier buses as they would only take him part way home.
As I went to leave, I was struck with another idea. Turning back, I patted Sean on the back and congratulated him on finishing his first job interview. I then shook his hand and handed him a few dollars, suggesting that he go grab something to eat while he waited for the bus to arrive. The level of appreciation floored me…as I learned one final lesson about the young man who stood before me…Sean had not eaten in some time.
Great men may steer the course of the world, but it is the small acts of individuals that move it forward.
*name altered: Being in high school, I don’t want to give bullies any more fodder than they already have.