This week I was driving along Church St. downtown Toronto. The sky was heavy and winds wintery. In a long lineup of cars, a beat up old electric bicycle pulled up beside me. The rider was wearing a torn lumberjack shirt, twisted hat and a dirty scarf wrapped around his neck. He sort of hovered beside my car while waiting for the light to change. He looked a little rough around the edges, beat up by a life that put him on the street. Then he looked at me with suffering on his face, slowly pointing to my license plate and then back to me with a smile and a thumbs up. My license plate says JSTBKIND.
This moment of sharing and connecting made my eyes water. In these times when everyone is getting worn out by the state of affairs and the state of the planet, from our inner circles to every continent, it's easy to feel quite hopeless or helpless. Interactions like this reminded me that in every choice we make, kindness is medicine. Acts of kindness can be exactly what we need to tackle any hurdle. For either the giver or the receiver, to be recognized where we are, just as we are, is a powerful gesture and readily available.
Many feel disempowered by the scale of needs to our singular capacity. If we allow ourselves to feel small and voiceless in these times, we can start unraveling at the seams, feel isolated or harden in the gravity of the times. It is so important to muster the courage to feel, and it is courage we need to embrace. No matter what arises, feeling it is the first step to processing what arises.
It’s natural to be kind to those we love. The real shift of energy comes from when we are able to be kind and considerate with strangers, in challenging circumstances, or painful situations that unfold within or outside of our intimate lives. In order to go beyond our comfort zone we have to listen deeply within ourselves first, no matter what is present. If I haven’t built a reflex for kindness with myself, it will be darn hard to manifest it truly for others. Like the Dalai Lama said, and I've shared before: "Compassion towards others that is not firmly rooted in the self is null and void." I share this again because I need reminding of this often.
When I made eye contact with this guy, what welled in me warmed my heart, and reminded me of the gift of life. It left me humbled and grateful for the opportunity to see him as and where he was, and return the smile. Humanity is many things, including beautiful and tender, even when we feel like we have gone to hell in a hand basket. We can all make a bigger difference in the world than we may think. Let compassion be as familiar as our names.
This documentary on Thay came out today. He is an extraordinary inspiration of kindness in action. Perhaps one of the greatest peace activists that ever lived.