Early last week I stopped by the gas station to fill up before the big storm, but blocking my way in was a man, pushing his car up the hill and into the station. My instinct was to leap out and help him, but my car was in the middle of a fairly busy road and I was afraid to leave it there. As I looked around desperately for a solution, two other young men (who had their cars safely parked) came running over to help him.
Connection among strangers. How beautiful.
Afterwards, one young man walked away and went about the rest of his day. The other one stayed and chatted with the young man who owned the broken down car for a little while. Maybe he was making sure the other could get the help he needed with his car. Maybe they were talking about something unrelated. Either way, I’m sure the connection they had affected the rest of their day in some small way.
Generosity as a way of connecting with strangers.
After the snow storm, I saw more of that. Suddenly, people were out of their houses, out of their cars, and we were talking, shoveling, connecting over the snow and the challenges. The barriers that usually exist between all of us were down and what loomed in front of us was what we have in common, larger even than the ways in which we’re different.
So, deeper even than putting yourself in the shoes of another: can you let them be other and see yourself in them. They may not have the same experiences as you, their perceptions of the world my be different, their body and history are their own… but there is something in another, when we look and listen for it, that is us. And there are moments (usually crises) where it becomes easier to see our hearts vibrating as one. And in that moment, we are moved to acts of generosity.
Now that the roads are clearing and businesses are starting to reopen, there will most likely be some contraction and competition. People will be fighting over shoveled out spots. We will once again retreat into our houses, our offices, our cars and The Others will become these nameless, faceless beings that seem to our egos to be between us and contentment.
Opening and closing, like each beat of the heart, like each breath, is natural. But I choose to try and see what we have in common, along with honoring the ways in which we’re different. I choose the generous act of love of strangers as myself. I choose to let heart-felt connection lead to generous acts. And on days when I am contracted and I can’t find the commonalities, I choose to let small, kind acts serve to bring me back to connection.