Are you noticing that our world is becoming increasingly more bizarre?  On a recent road trip from Dallas to St. Louis my husband and I experienced three notable episodes that can only be described as bizarre.  I’m convinced that these occurrences are not just a passing fluke, but they are a developing trend that will not go away.  Things are changing rapidly, which can be disturbing.  But the great news is that the tools we need to adapt to the change, embrace it and thrive have not changed at all.  Follow this story to the end and you’ll see what I mean.

One afternoon around five p.m. we were with two young family members, a 10-year-old granddaughter and a 13-year-old nephew.  Of course, they were both hungry.  My husband dropped us off at the restaurant of choice while he ran off to put the Tesla on a supercharger a few miles away. It began to rain so we ran quickly to the door, only to find it locked.  What?  Locked at 5 p.m. on a weekday?  We haven’t seen anything like this since the height of Covid?  There were people inside and bags of orders to go.  A man came out to deliver an order to a customer.  Looking at us with a strained facial expression he explained, “I’m short staffed and short of supplies, so I’m only allowing 2 people into the store at a time.”  What?  So, because there are three of us, we cannot come in?  He further clarified that they were working on orders sent from the restaurant app.  We locked eyes for a nano-second, processing this craziness.  I then spoke (with a bit of exaggerated drama). “My husband has left with the car.  I’m outdoors with two kids in the rain.  Can we just step inside and stand in the corner?  We won’t bother anyone?”  He agreed. Whew!  

Meanwhile the 13-year-old downloaded the restaurant app on his cell phone and announced that he would just place an order for pick-up.  Brilliant solution!  But overhearing his plan, one of the servers came to us and whispered, “We’re three hours behind on to go orders.”   What?  We were bewildered.  

Then man (who was probably the manager) spoke again, “Ma’am, you all just come on and go through the line.  We have food and we will feed you.”  Great!  We moved quickly and ordered food “to go”, calling for my husband to return quickly to pick up us.  

Reaching the cash register I asked for a bottled tea product only to get (again) a stressed look from the clerk.  She said, “We have tea over there with the fountain drinks.”  I didn’t want a fountain drink.  What’s wrong with the bottle in the refrigerator?  “I’ll have to charge you for the bottled drink”, she said.  What?  I will gladly pay for what I want!  So strange.  But she insisted and I gave in.  Picking up three plastic cups for fountain drinks I was totally befuddled.  

But I finally understood when she said, “I’m not going to charge you for your meals.”  Wow!  The entire staff thanked us for our patience.  We thanked them for working so hard (a rare sight in some places these days).  When my husband returned, we left with our meals and ate in the car.

This was just one of three separate episodes that we experienced on this stay in St. Louis.  We received free parking at the hotel when the parking gate just didn’t work to let us in.  We got free meals to make up for the disruption of having repair men in our hotel room, while we were huddled in a corner conducting a training meeting on Zoom.  All of this came from compassionate people who did not cause the problems but empathized with the stress and inconvenience that we suffered.    

Note that in each of these three bizarre situations, certain of the usual responses did not happen.  There was no expression of anger, blame or even frustration.  All the faces, all the eyes showed the strain of thinking through to find reasonable solutions—to connect with and understand human needs.

The bizarre is on the rise and is manifesting in economic disruptions such as supply shortages, inadequate staffing, insufficient funding of projects, market crashes, high interest rates on loans, low returns on savings and investments, rising inflation and unfamiliar financial technologies.  Our money is losing value, sending us scrambling to maintain everyday life.  But we still have one currency that is strong – the currency of human kindness. 

This amazing currency has qualities that surpass any other on earth.  Just for fun, let’s see if it meets the technical definition of a currency.  Going back to financial literacy school for a moment we recall the technical definition.  A money currency must always be:

  1. Portable – something you can carry around with you.  Check.  We all carry human kindness within us everywhere we go.
  2. Durable – won’t deteriorate over time. Check.  Kindness has forever been of value and will always be.
  3. Divisible – denominated so as to allow for making change. Hmmm.  I’m giving this one a check not because kindness is actually divisible, but because, by nature, its supply is not limited like financial currencies.  We can spend it with reckless abandon and never need to ask for change!  How fun is that?
  4. Fungible – worth the same anywhere in the world. Check.  No explanation needed!

So, as we shoot through this bizarre new financial universe on the Star Ship Enterprise, technology will surely take us “where no man has ever gone before.”  We have no choice but to go.  However, we don’t have to go biting our fingernails and wringing our hands.  We can rather choose to go bravely, laughing as we lock arms and breathe new life into a very old currency – the currency of human kindness.