I pack up my bulging briefcase, lock up the office, and walk to my car at the end of my workday. It's around 6:30, still sunny and warm, and as I am pondering dinner and clicking the unlock button, I glance at the ground and see a familiar shape. It is one of those car magnet memorial ribbons, upside down, so only the gray outline against the blacktop is seen.
It takes a moment to sink in. I have two on the back of my car. I look at my bumper; yes, now I have only one, with a remnant of the one torn from my car still hanging on. My 2009 Carolina Basketball National Championship ribbon is still there.
The one that was vandalized says: "Practice Random Acts of Kindness."
I pick up the ribbon, getting ready to put it back on the car, annoyed for a moment, but that feeling is quickly replaced by one of curiosity. Who was this person, and what was their motivation? (Ever the psychologist...) As I ran through the possibilities, I felt bemusement, anxiety, and then sadness.
Bemusement: I imagine it could have just been a teenager walking by with a friend, goofing, laughing at the intended irony. Okay, I stole my share of signs of one kind or another as a youth.
Anxiety: It could be someone who knows me and my car. In that case it is a more personal attack, but I do not generally tend towards paranoia so I dismiss that idea fairly quickly.
Sadness: What my intuition tells me is that it may have been someone who is suffering. Someone who feels so alone, or is so sad, or angry, (or all three) that they are inflamed by this benign thought. How painful to be that closed off and hopeless that you would feel agitated by the very kind of message of which you might most need to be the beneficiary.
I take a moment to breathe in that kind of suffering, and breathe out a wish for well-being as I replace the ribbon on my bumper.
I hope it was the teenager.