Ed stepped onto the elevator as usual, with a long line of people behind him. After the long day of going up countless stairs, he was happy taking the extra few minutes to ride the elevator up and down. Being able-bodied, however, made him vow to be as courteous as possible. He immediately pressed the “door open” button upon entering, held it until all were on board, pressed the “door close” button, and then upon reaching the destination, he reversed the process, always allowing others out before him. Finally he sent the elevator back down to ‘help out’ the next weary soul on their way home.
On rare days when another beat him out as ‘first in line’, he chuckled as the door slammed into those boarding the elevator, the person near the panel not bothering to keep his or her finger depressed onto the button until all were there. In Ed’s mind, the daily ritual of the elevator etiquette had become something of a lofty place in society – if he didn’t set the example, the entire world suffered.
Then came the day he realized that it all didn’t matter. Sure he never expected to receive a medal or anything for his elevator chivalry, but one moment, standing on the elevator, looking at some familiar and not so familiar faces, he realized that he was the only one who noticed that he went to great lengths to be kind to others. And with the exception of the rare older person who thanked him for holding the door, no one else much cared.
For a few weeks he contemplated ‘retiring’ from his elevator operator role. While habit kept him doing the same old things, he knew that habits could be changed just as easily back to the default. He kept asking himself why he bothered with these gestures, until he finally had the answer.
He did it because it made him feel better, made him feel as though he were contributing in some small way to the world. And in the end, if he was the only person who benefitted explicitly from it, it was still worth it. So he kept up, not caring if any day in the future it would make a difference in a big way to his fellow passengers. Over the years it had already made a big difference to him.