Who are they?

Last Friday during lunch, I left the office early to work from home for the rest of the day. Along the way, I stopped at a shopping center to pick up lunch. On a whim, I stepped into a grocery store to pick up some flowers for my wife. Deciding to not leave the flowers in a hot car, I carried them into Chipotle.

As I gave my order, I chatted with the line workers, who each commented on my flowers.

Lady: Those are nice flowers!
Me: Thanks. I hope my wife likes them.
Lady: She will. They’re lovely. Any occasion?
Me: Nope.
Lady: Just because? That’s so sweet.

As I checked out, the cashier informed me that my lunch was on the house. “Just for being a nice guy,” she said.

It was a simple gesture, but it made my day. And it got me thinking about how we interact with each other.

My Facebook and Twitter feeds these days are the online equivalent of the Swamp of Sadness. It’s an election year, so many posts are about vilifying the other side. Recently, Chipotle has been in the media due to food safety concerns, and has similarly been quite the target.

It’s so easy to generalize with “they”. They aren’t true Americans. They have misguided opinions. They want to wreck this country. They don’t care about us.

But today, they were very specific people, just trying to be people.

I have to wonder how different my feeds would be if the authors replaced “they” with names of specific people. Would it be as easy to point fingers and vilify?