We all have experiences that remind us of what we already know. But, what longevity do these experiences have. Do they stay with us? Or, are they but fleeting distractions? After having had such an experience this past week, I want to know how these experiences can move us from acknowledgment to action. I want to not only be content with a reminder of what I already know—I want an experience that shatters convention.

While waiting at a stoplight, I see a man standing on the corner. He is holding a sign, noting that he is a disabled veteran; and, would appreciate any help. As I become lost in my thoughts about this man (and, whether I should give to him), I am snapped into attention by another man. This other man, jumping from his newly-polished, gaudily decorated luxury car, wearing high end sneakers, sweatpants and a very large gold chain with a crucifix, leaves his car to walk across the street to the man holding the sign. He gives him some cash with one hand-then, shakes his hand, looks him in the eye and says, “thank you. Thank you for your service.”

I don’t know anything about the giving man. I don’t know what line of work he is in. I don’t know where he lives; what he believes; what he hopes for. I only know what I saw: an act of true character. I know that with that act, he made God smile—and, rightfully so. But, I was left wanting to know more.

Don’t put people in a box. I have heard that recited countless times over the years in our divided age that we live in. I have often recited it myself. I don’t know about you; but, seeing what I saw at that stoplight defied all conventional expectation. We are led to believe that an act like that happening is exceptional, remarkable, and surprising. But, is it, really?

I know that there are countless acts like this man’s, every day in every town and city across our country and across our world. Just because the “news” doesn’t highlight them doesn’t mean they don’t happen. We all see things like this in our everyday lives. And, these things remind us: don’t put people in a box. Instead, let’s unpack those boxes. We will never get to know those we don’t know, or be able to fill in the blanks, so that we are not surprised by these kind of actions, unless we unpack.

To shatter convention, to move from acknowledgment to action, let’s unpack those boxes-- together.

Jackson Dreiling