It takes only a moment to be human, i.e., kind.
This past weekend, a person I love dearly was in trouble…real trouble. Alone and far from home, after midnight, with a work task requiring vigilant attention in an impossible – literally sans possibles – situation. A perfect case study in Panic 101.
His phone was dead and he needed to contact his boss ASAP. Local businesses were closed for the night, with only some bars spottily in full swing. Mostly tipsy customers wandered around, many without masks, adding fear of exposure to potential illness as an additional obstacle for approach. Still, all he really needed was a single, very simple moment of someone’s time to help him mitigate the emergency.
For an hour this individual asked – begged – for some compassion and assistance, to not be ignored or looked past. “Can you make a call from your phone to my boss?”; “I’ll pay you forty dollars just to borrow that phone charger…”; “No, I’m not trying to rob you. I. JUST. NEED HELP.”
In a moment of sheer desperation, he disclosed his very private, personal challenge to those around him, hoping to provide context to quell their apprehension of his request. He continued to be ignored despite baring his very real vulnerability. This new level of rejection in the most sensitive of situations was heartbreaking as well as terrifying: people were still unwilling to help. That was until (because there’s always a redemptive moment in everyone's story) an earth angel disguised as a passer-by acknowledged him, assured that he was seen, heard and feelings felt, and that help was his for the taking. This angel provided solace, grounding and protection for my loved one rather than fear of him, so that he could redirect himself to solve the impossible. Said angel created a safe space for my loved one to return back to the best of himself, and thereby determine how to fit a square peg into a round hole.
Which, by the way, my loved one did.
How many people with communication challenges – be they based in developmental delays, second language difficulties, post- stroke or in a diabetic crisis; and/or mental health obstacles that, only naturally, become more precarious to navigate at 2 am in the "city-that-never-sleeps-except-during-a-pandemic" – are overlooked, dismissed, judged and ignored? How many neurotypical, allegedly mentally healthy, “average” individuals might panic in the same situation? (hint: all of them). And what role does skin color, nationality, gender, and chosen expression of self- identity play into the decision-making of whether or not one is worthy of your help?
I can’t recall the exact moment when basic human kindness become the exception rather than the rule around here. Because we’re all earth angels if we choose to be. WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN THE BLESSING OF FREE WILL, regardless of the means by which you believe it's been given. The last I checked, that is our purpose on this big blue marble. Which is why I have yet to understand how one’s faith in any religious doctrine or spiritual tradition, all based on loving thy neighbor and helping others, could ever be exclaimed with fervent ardor and defensively slung, yet enacted with caveats and exceptions.
That's not how this works. That's now how any of this works.
It took one person to literally stop, look and listen, with an open heart and good intentions, to demonstrate basic human decency. It also took over one hour of sacrificed humiliation, invisibility and raw panic to achieve. The angel told me that when he showed up to the scene, all he needed to know was right there in front of him: a human being needed help. As he put it, “Today him, tomorrow me.” A basic principle of Karma. What goes around comes around. You’ve got to give love to get love.
Kindness is not a new concept, just possibly forgotten…and it’s literally the trait that defines our humanity.
What if it were your friend in desperate straits? Your child who needed help? Your parent in distress? Your partner in an emergent situation? When you look at others, do you see someone’s loved one? Do you?
Well, do you?
Just a thought: as a society, we are in need of MAJOR recalibration. Slow your roll. Take a beat. Listen and heed your heart’s calling. Don’t shove it back behind fears, or drown it out with more words or cocktails or scrolls in your feed. Just. Heed. The. Call. It’s that simple.
Thank you, earth angel, for restoring my faith in basic humanity, for showing up, for caring. May your call to action be the beginning of a revolution that brings us back to ourselves.
"Love and Kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference." ~ Helen James