I shouldn’t have accused the kid of wearing Axe.
Seven or eight of his tribe were sitting in front of us in the movie theater. When they’d walked in during the previews, adorned in their tween armor of cell-phones and flat-billed hats, I’d solemnly watched my movie-going experience drift out the emergency exit door and into the mountain night, trailed by a waft of body spray.
But aside from a few minor texting infractions, which they probably picked up from their parents, the kids were quiet and more respectful during the movie than the big dude a few seats down, who issued random groans and mumbled to his seatmate at inopportune moments.
We followed the tribe out of the theater after the movie, and a ten-dollar bill dropped from the pocket of an older man in front of them. One of the kids bent down to pick it up and I half-expected him to pocket it.
You know, kids these days and everything.
But he hurried to catch up to the older man.
Excuse me sir, you dropped this.
The older man turned around, took the bill from the kid, and held it for a moment, which turned into an eternity of me hoping he’d do what I hoped I’d do.
And I watched this kid’s whole future unfold in front of me. That one honest act showed me what kind of adolescent he could be, what kind of young man he could be, what kind of middle-aged man he could be.
And then I saw what kind of older man that kid could be.
He handed the ten-dollar bill back to the kid.
The kid took the bill with both hands and a smile erupted across his face. He looked questioningly up at the older man.
You deserve it.
And I walked into the mountain air feeling like I’d just witnessed the kind of everyday, sacred thing that makes us human.
The kind of thing that reminds us we have the power to make huge impacts in the smallest of moments.
The kind of thing you don’t hear about on MSNBC.
The kind of thing you don’t capture with a selfie on Instagram.
The kind of thing that affirms doing the right thing comes back to you, sometimes further down the road than you can see at the moment.
And sometimes right away, on an early summer weeknight, in the lobby of a small mountain town movie theater.