I spent yesterday listening to a podcast from the Upaya Dharma Center on Joy and Wisdom. One of the epiphanies I had was during the discussion on wisdom. I realized that what has truly sustained me has not always been the big events of my life, although there have been some that certainly have, like the birth of my children and grandchildren, or the recovery from illness or injury. No, some of the things that have had the greatest impact on me have been fleeting, momentary acts of kindness and love that have seemingly come out of nowhere but left me reassured that there is, indeed, still love and kindness in a world that, more often than not, doesn't seem to have very much these days.
I was reminded of a hot summer day a few years ago. I had just gotten out of work and after being cooped up in a cubicle in a windowless room in my office, I couldn't wait to get outside and stroll the four blocks to the bus stop on Main Street that would take me home. It started out quite lovely after a day of dim lights and artificial air, but it soon became apparent that it was also very, very hot and there I was lugging my purse (more like a satchel) and my tote bag (complete with lunch bag, change of shoes and my book to read on the bus), and wondering if I was even going to make it to the bus stop! Of course I finally did, and flopped down on the cement edging that fronted the church where the bus would stop. I must have looked like something the cat dragged in, as my mom used to say, when I heard a voice with a sweet, lilting African-sounding accent, say: "Mama, you are okay? Do you need my arm?" I looked up to see a painfully thin young black man in his early 20's, dressed in clothes that were very old and worn but clearly clean and mended, looking over me with great concern. His use of the term "Mama" reminded me of how some Native American tribes teach their children to address older women as "Aunt" or "Grandmother," even if they do not know them, as a term of respect. This was clearly the young man's intention when he had addressed me. I smiled up at him and assured him that I was fine, just a bit hot and tired from the walk burdened with all my stuff, and thanked him the way my Native teacher taught me: "Thank you, my son, for your kindness. Peace and blessings." He took my hand in both of his and wished me a good day. Then he walked off with as regal and dignified a walk as I have ever seen even from a monarch.
I have never forgotten that day, especially as something similar happened shortly after my move recently. I was pulling one of those little shopping carts up the inside stairs to my apartment after a stroll to the store and another young man, also with a beautiful accent, asked if he could help me. I assured him that I was fine and was actually the happy recipient of all this free exercise that people paid lots of money for at a gym! He laughed but said he would follow me all the way up to make sure I made it without any problems, just like a good trainer would watch his student. We both laughed at that and he left me at me door with, "And by the way, welcome to the neighborhood!"
Little acts of kindness. Small examples of compassion and concern for each other. Those are the moments that sustain us. Sure, the big events of our lives will certainly have an impact, but when I feel overwhelmed by the onslaught of hate and intolerance, greed and ignorance, that seems to be permeating the world right now, it is these fleeting but life changing moments that sustain me, that assure me there is still some good in the will and that, in the end, good always wins.
And so it is.