Columnist Art Buchwald tells the story of a day when he was riding in a cab in New York City with a friend. When they got out of the cab, the friend said to the driver, “Thank you for the ride. You did a super job of driving this cab!”
The taxi driver seemed stunned for a second and said, “Are you a wise guy or something?”
“No,” said the man, “I’m serious. I admire the way you keep cool in heavy traffic. Not many cab drivers are able to do that. I’m glad I rode in your cab today!”
“Yeah, sure,” the cab driver said and he drove off.
Buchwald asked his friend, “What was that all about?”
“I am trying to bring love back to New York City,” said the man. “I believe it’s the only thing that can save the city.”
“You think one man can save New York City?”
It’s not one man,” said the man. “I believe I have made that taxi driver’s day. Suppose he has twenty fares. He’s going to be nice to those twenty fares because someone was nice to him. Those fares will in turn be kinder to their employees, shopkeepers or waiters, or even their own families. Eventually, the goodwill could spread to at least a thousand people. Now that isn’t bad, is it?”
“But you are depending on that taxi driver to pass your goodwill on to others.”
“Maybe he won’t,” said the man. “But I might say something nice to ten different people today. If, out of ten, I can make three happy, then I can indirectly influence the attitudes of three thousand or more.”
“You’re some kind of a nut,” said Buchwald to his friend.
“That shows how cynical you’ve become,” said the man. “Take postal workers, for instance. The reason so many of them hate their work is because no one is telling them that they are doing a good job.”
“But they aren’t doing a good job.”
“They’re not doing a good job because they don’t believe anyone cares if they do or not,” replied the man.
Buchwald and his friend continued walking down the street and noticed five workmen eating their lunch. The friend stopped and said, “That’s a magnificent job you men have done. It must be difficult and dangerous work.”
The workmen looked at Buchwald’s friend suspiciously.
“When will this job be finished?” the friend asked.
“June,” growled one of the workmen.
“Ah, that is really impressive. You must all be very proud of what you are doing here!”
As they walked away, Buchwald said, “I still don’t think you are doing any good.”
“On the contrary,” said the man, “when those workmen digest my words, they’ll feel better about what they are doing and somehow the city will benefit.”
“But you can’t do this alone,” said Buchwald. “You’re just one man.”
“But I’m not discouraged,” he said. “I’m hoping to enlist others in my campaign.”
They continued walking down the street.
“You just smiled at a very plain-looking woman,” Buchwald said to his friend.
“Yes, I know,” the man replied. “And if she’s a schoolteacher, her class is going to be in for a fantastic day.”
– Art Buchwald