|Andrea Del Pesco, Supermarket|
You're in the checkout lane with a shopping cart filled to capacity with groceries. It's a Sunday afternoon; the store is mobbed, I haven't budged from the cash register in nearly two hours, and there are six people in line behind you. I have to tally up your groceries; you have to pay for them. And one way or another, all of your stuff has to be bagged neatly and swiftly and placed back in your cart.
You can't help me ring up your stuff; I can't help you pay for it. But you can help me bag up your $300 load of groceries. Nobody's forcing you, of course: if you'd prefer not be bothered, I'll just have to do it by myself.
In this situation it absolutely does not matter to me what you might feel or believe about me or anything else. Maybe you're the kind of person who listens to Rush Limbaugh every day. Maybe you believe climate change is a hoax and think that gun-toting public school teachers are a great idea. Maybe you're looking at me and just seeing some sluggard who never got a "real" job. Maybe, for some reason, you plain don't like the way I look, dress, or talk. I don't care. Provided you aren't being nasty to me, as long as you're helping me bag your groceries—putting in a small effort so that things will move along more smoothly for me, for the people behind you in line, and ultimately for yourself—you're okay in my book. We might not ever be friends, but I'm not going to say you're a bad person. You're the type who's willing to do a small, friendly thing to help out a stranger, and that's a fine quality for a human being to possess.
Contrariwise, I don't care who you are—you could be a lecturer and activist who travels the country facilitating workshops on justice and equality; you could be a brilliant artist or writer; you could be the head of an NGO dedicated to mitigating climate change, improving literacy rates, and/or solving the urban "food desert" problem—if, while I'm ringing you up and bagging your tremendous load of groceries all by myself as the six people behind you in line are seething with impatience, you're gabbing away on your phone, texting, or just staring at me from across the counter with your arms at your sides, I don't care who you are or what you do in your life beyond the sliding glass doors. You can't be bothered. You're an asshole.
MORAL. Our definitions of "good people" probably tend towards the self-involved, if not self-serving.