Death and Kindness

A big part of Buddhist philosophy is appreciating that we all die.

And we don’t know when.

Could happen now. Or later. Or much, much later.

Who can say?

I’m pretty sure that for most people I know, this is a thought, a discussion, a realization, better left unsaid.

So let’s not say much.

Except.

I just came across a post on Facebook from the Charter for Compassion that I have always loved:

“I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it for I shall not pass this way again.”

~Quaker saying

So. I suppose.

All we need to reflect on.

Is how we can.

Be kind today.

At the Train Station

On any given day.

What do you know?

How are you questioned?

I went to the Linden El Station to fill Henry’s student  bus card.

It was freezing. I was in a hurry.

A young woman. Sitting on a bench. In the station. Smiled at me.

I smiled. Nodded a quick hello.

And instantly. Felt threatened.

I went about my business of filling Henry’s bus card with $20.

But I messed it up. Because I was rattled. Because I knew. That the young woman was hoping I could help her.

“Hi. Do you have a dollar I could use to get on the bus?”

She must want more than a dollar.

“No sorry. I’ve only got my credit card. No cash.” A lie.

I hate myself.

I scan my credit card and attempt to purchase a refill for Henry’s card. Before I know what’s happening a card shoots out of the machine. Crap. It’s a regular card. Rather than filling Henry’s student card. Twice the cost.

“Could you just put me on the bus then?” The young woman asks.

What does she want from me?

“No sorry  – this is my son’s student card.”

Who is saying these things?

I rush to leave the station. “Really sorry,” I say to her on the way out.

“Thanks. That’s ok. Really.”

And it feels like she really, genuinely doesn’t want me to feel like a total shit for not giving her a dollar.

****

What do I spend a dollar on?

How many people have given Henry a dollar to ride the bus when he’s come up short?

What in the world am I thinking?

I leave the station and run a few errands nearby.

And am beside myself. I don’t care if she’s trying to scam me for a few dollars.

Why haven’t I helped her?

I head back to the station.

She’s standing at the pay machine trying to purchase a bus card.

“Do you still need money?” I ask.

“Just 75 cents.”

I give her a five dollar bill.

She holds up the dollar in her hand and asks if I want it in exchange.

Her nails are dirty. She’s cold as hell. I feel like a total shit.

“No.” I shake my head. And try to hide that I’m about to totally lose it and start sobbing.

For me as much as for her.

Because I was afraid to help her.

I was afraid to give her a dollar. And look her in the eye.

What did I see when I did?

Everything.

And I cried and cried and cried.

Compassion

Tim reminded me today. That I preach compassion.

For that. I have gratitude.

Because. I was crossed. Betrayed. Let down.

And now.

I need to practice compassion.

First for me.

And then.

For the…party…who… so…disappointed me.

If you know me. You know I am swearing a blue streak.

So. I walked the dogs. Let the steam out of my ears.

I am so pissed off.

So hurt. And betrayed. And angry.

First. Compassion for me.

Then.

Ugh.

For them.

Thanks for reminding me Tim.

I am grateful.

It is said that in difficult times, it is only bodhichitta that heals.

“Bodhichitta is a Sanskrit word that means “noble or awakened heart.” Just as butter is inherent in milk and oil is inherent in a sesame seed, the soft spot of bodhichitta is inherent in you and me. It is equated in part, with our ability to love. No matter how committed we are to unkindness, selfishness, or greed, the genuine heart of bodhichitta cannot be lost. It is here in all that lives, never marred completely whole.

It is said that in difficult times, it is only bodhichitta that heals. When inspiration has become hidden, when we feel ready to give up, this is the time when healing can be found in the tenderness of pain itself. Bodhichitta is also equated, in part, with compassion – our ability to feel the pain that we share with others. Without realizing it we continually shield ourselves from this pain because it scares us. Based on a deep fear of being hurt, we erect protective walls made out of strategies, opinions, prejudices and emotions….

This tenderness for life, bodhichitta, awakens when we no longer shield ourselves from the vulnerability of our condition, from basic fragility of existence. It awakens through kinship with the suffering of others. We train in the  bodhichitta practices in order to become so open that we can take the pain of the world in, let it touch our hearts, and turn it into compassion.”

Comfortable with Uncertainty, Pema Chodron

Today’s headlines. Make us so angry.  Anger begets anger. Begets violence.

You know what? Forget the headlines. What about your everyday life? What about mine? I was having a conversation with a very angry person. They continued to heap their poisonous thoughts on me. Trying with their every word to get me to join in with their righteous indignation. Finally, when I wouldn’t bite that hook. They turned to attack me personally. By golly. If they were angry they wanted me to be angry too!

Why?

To join in the fight? In the war? To what end?

I’m so tired of being angry. Of our angry world.

Aren’t you?