Yesterday, for my grocery-shopping excursion, I decided to wear one of my cherished favorites. It was given to me last year by renowned scholar Dr. David Kohn after a personal guided tour of his phenomenal Darwin exhibition at the Museum of Natural History in NYC.
I need to describe the shirt for you before we get to the moral of our tale: it displays a schematic notebook drawing of Darwin's first intimations about the origin of species, a crudely-sketched multi-branched "tree" with the scribbled words "I think" in script at the top.
And along the bottom of the sketch is the word REVOLUTIONARY in all capital letters, with the beginning "R" and ending "ARY" in red -- and "EVOLUTION" in white.
So -- I push my cart to the checkout counter. The young woman ringing up my purchases was twenty-something, tall, thin and pale, with dreadlocks barely-concealed under a blue-checked kerchief.
She: "Do you have a Kings card?"
"That's OK. I won't try to make you get one."
[Pause/hesitation, then She again]: "I like your T-shirt."
Me [ingenuously] "Oh, you mean Charles Darwin?"
"No. I mean 'revolution.' We were talking about it last night - some friends and I..."
"What did you say?"
"Well, everybody was remembering what we've read and the movies we've seen about the sixties, and all the protests and stuff, and people getting up out of their seats and marching and making a statement about the conditions of society. It must have been something."
"Yes, it was an exciting time."
"I'm at the tail-end of Generation Y, or whatever they call it, and it seems like nobody wants to do anything."
Me, smiling, "It's still not too late!"
She: "Total comes to $20.01"
I handed her a $20 bill. "Sorry, I don't have the penny. I owe you one."
She shook her head. "Forget it," and handed me my receipt. As I began to wheel the cart away,
she stepped out from behind the counter and held the door open for me, looking at me with what I can only describe as respect.
"Maybe you're right," she said, "maybe it isn't too late... Well, nice to meet you."
I loaded up the car, turned the key in the ignition, glanced over at the market entrance.
She was standing there by the display of house-plants, waving.
Perhaps dreaming, like I once did, of how to help make the world a better place.