Today didn’t set out to bad or good. Just a day, like any other, filled with work and things to do. I wasn’t expecting greatness. But I certainly wasn’t expecting sadness. And yet there it was, death — a little too close to home, hard to process, making my head spin. But while my head reeled from the sudden and tragic loss of one — in my soul’s numbness of aching for a little girl who lost her father, a woman who lost her soul mate — I connected strangely, and profoundly to another. It was an incredible experience that reminded me there is still goodness in the world. Even if is your own benevolent act.
We are all connected. There is something larger than us at work — even scientists have agreed the universe is too perfect in its design to have been born out of random chaos. There was a creator, and I’m not making a case for God here. But I am making a case for being human. One thing has always been clear to me: we are on this planet but a short time, and there is one resounding truth — we are all connected — and it is in this connectedness we must be kind.
A buddy from high school reminded me the other week just how easy it is to be caring; to be human and help someone in need. He shared a story on Facebook that wasn’t out of the ordinary: a homeless man asked him for change, and instead of giving it, my friend purchased a meal and talked with the man, interested in learning more about who he was, what his story in this world could have been. We’ve all seen the stories of inspiration – of someone doing good. And we share, with #lovethis or #compassion, but how often do we truly let that story drive our action the next time we are in a similar situation? Rarely I bet. But when we do — the most incredible thing happens: our soul opens. To possibilities. To promise. To the goodness of this life.
That’s how I met Jason and his cat, Spicket.
I drove by the two when I was getting off the freeway after a long commute. Anyone who knows me knows I have an incredibly soft spot for animals, and I’ve seen this too many times to count in the city: homeless with pets. And while it saddens me to think of what their days and nights must be like, when their last meal was, I am at the same time glad the two have each other. I’ve seen the exchange of care between an animal and person on the city’s streets. A human, in the condition they are in, whatever it is that may have brought them there, will more often than not, ask for food so their pet may eat, their hunger a greater need than their own. This man and his cat were no different.
The man smiled at the cars as we idled at the red light, the cat hanging onto his shoulders as if he were saying, “don’t worry buddy, I got you.” The connection was obvious, and it got to me: a man with no belongings other than that on his back, taking care of another, with what little he could: kindness.
I couldn’t stop thinking about them as I pumped gas at the station a few minutes later, and when done, without hesitation, went into the convenience store and loaded up on meals and snacks and drinks for two, and then turned back around to find them. I sat in traffic on that one mile stretch of road, going around and around searching for them, but could not find them. Crushed, I went home and dropped off my bags, and I wasn’t home yet one minute before I decided to head back out, determined to find them. And five minutes later I did!
I pulled over, rolled down my window and gave him the bag of food. He smiled, thanked me for my generosity and then you know what he said to me: “Thank you for smiling. Most people don’t even smile these days. A smile is enough. But this…” he looked into his bag and back up, “Is a kindness I can’t even describe.”
We talked — cars whizzing past us as my car idled by the side of the road — and I told him the story of how I saw him earlier and didn’t have money on me but I wanted to do something for him and his cat. I told him how glad I was that they had one another and whatever situation it was he was in, that he find his way back on his feet. “Hey,” he smiled, “don’t worry about me. We’re fine. We got each other. I think we have it better than you all do out there. It’s a crazy world, man.” I thought about what he said and smiled. The world really can be off kilter most days. And that’s when it hit me. A rush of emotions: feelings of loss, of elation, of pure euphoria of having wanted to do something and then done it. All I could do was choke back the tears and smile as this man laughed by the side of the road, wind tossing the ties of his winter hat in the wind, and the cat clinging to his shoulder, his yellow eyes held mine, looking at, and into me.
When the light again turned green he nodded and thanked me again for my kindness. ”I think he wants to play,” he reached up and scratched his cat’s ear. And as I pulled away from where they stood by the side of the road, cat rolling in the grass on the side of the freeway, oblivious to the cars that were passing, I felt it. Writing this now, I can feel it there still…that feeling that lingered in my chest long after the day had ended. Hope: for us and the world.
It truly is wonderful to do something for someone and not want anything in return. Many of us are luckier than we know. I did not write this to tell everyone what I did. I share it because I am hoping it will inspire someone the way my friend’s story did last week when he shared it with me.
We have to be human. We have to reach out when others are in need. We have to stop in our pursuit of the material things and remember there is a greater wealth out there.
Life is short. We are reminded of this daily. I am saddened at the loss of life that happened yesterday, but I am awestruck at the incredible timing of another experience that connected me to another emotion entirely: gratitude. We are so lucky to be here, in this day, in this moment.
It is our greatest currency.