I walked on to a train one early evening a few weeks ago. Following me was a group of young girls, probably a dozen or so, probably on their way back from a school sports practice or game. They were all obviously athletic, dressed in warm-up sweats, and carrying big bags. Soccer? Field hockey? Basketball? Not sure. Anyway, so far all is pretty normal. Then they broke out the candy. Each one had a different stash of sweets. Again, pretty normal for 16 or 17 year olds, I guess. But then we entered the Twilight Zone. For 10 minutes each kid ate and shared her candy with all the other girls. Each one. They sat spread out on both sides of the train, too, so back and forth they darted passing around candy, never once breaking their multiple simultaneous conversations, never once missing anyone with their delivery of candy, never once bothering anyone else on the train. How perfectly strange, I though. I’ve never seen such odd behavior from a group of human beings, and I certainly didn’t do this when I was 17 coming home on the bus from a lacrosse or football practice, that’s for sure. Now I know why each one brought different candy!
After a while, they all finished their candy and then just talked and sent text messages on their cell phones. All their fingers were wiped clean (either by licking or wiping with handy moist towelettes, which they also shared, of course), all the wrappers were safely tucked away in their bags, and not a crumb was left on the floor of the train. They had to have noticed me watching this scene, though. I’m pretty easy to spot in their world. But they never once looked at me or let on that they noticed. Once I recovered from this display of candy etiquette, I though they were done and I had just observed an anomaly. Wrong. After a few minutes, one girl whips out a sub (I don’t know what you call big sandwiches in Japan, but it looked like a sub or grinder). It was huge. But it wasn’t all for her, obviously, because she started ripping it into pieces, and sure enough, she then began passing the bits out to the others. Out of that huge sub, she had one piece. And then a few others dug out their sandwiches — different kinds, of course — and started ripping them into pieces and giving them out as well. And around we went. Back and forth across the train. Then at some point they all finished and got up and got off at a station. Together. Probably going to dinner.
So, for about 20 minutes I watched these girls eat and talk and text — and share. What struck me was not only the extreme nature of the sharing but that it was all perfectly normal. No kid had to ask for anything. It was just assumed. You open your stuff and start giving it out. And everyone else does the same, so, other stuff comes back. Effortless. Imagine if the notion of sharing resources came naturally to everyone at every level? And not as an afterthought or after you’ve got plenty of yours. Instead, as the default position going in. You share first, in other words. Not second.