I was filling my car up with gas earlier today when I spotted a man walking down the street. He looked like he had fallen on hard times. Turning back to the gas pump I saw the price running up on the meter. 10, 15, 20 dollars, not thinking anything of it. Because well, I work full time and I've done a good job budgeting this month...which is not usually the case. Anyway, the man came up to the gas station in search of change. He asked the 5 people in line for change. None of them gave him anything. Half of them didn't even look up from the pump. Two of them didn't even reply.
It got me thinking about how we treat each other, how from one minute to the next...you could be on your ass asking strangers for change at a gas station. It made me think about karma, and the fact that I've spent so much time in my own head lately that I haven't really been thinking about the impact that has on others. When he approached me I took my sunglasses off and looked him in the eye. He was a thirty something fellow with a big round tummy and an infectious smile. He reminded me of a comedian you'd see if you stumble upon Comedy Central late enough at night. I went to the console of the car and handed him a couple of ones and some change, as it was all I could spare. Myself living on paycheck to paycheck as well, I couldn't justify it. As cruel as that sounds, it's the truth. You could tell his ship was lost in the storm. I had no other choice but to help him.
My best friend of a long time got herself into a serious accident earlier this week. It is a miracle she is still alive. I rushed up to see her, all panting and spinning out of control in my head. The thing is, her ship had been lost at sea too, for sometime now. And despite anyone's best efforts to help, or set course for home or shangri-la it kept veering off course, careening farther and farther into deeper, blacker waters. Sometimes when you begin to destroy yourself you don't see it coming until it's far too late. Until you begin to see the last possible moment of sanity, it seems that the rest of your downward spiral was just, well, normal. Once I saw my dear friend I knew that the damage had already been done, and I was with her through most of it, at times participating or encouraging, never having guts enough to say what the reality really was. For fear of admiring it to myself, first and then admiring it to her too. That meant we were both in trouble, and one of us needed to be strong for the other. And suddenly I realized what people were trying to tell me so many months ago when my ship couldn't have been farther from Shangri-la. When I was so deeply conflicted that I hurt myself and others without even realizing it.
I cleaned her room for her, helped tidy up her surroundings, gave her a big glass of cold water and tried to help clean her home. It was rife with evidence of a person who had been struggling for a while. It was obvious the environment wasn't helping either. I knew I had to help, in whatever way I could. Because it's worth it.
It reminded me of the man on the street. When she looked at me and said "thank you so much for being here" it was that innocent sense of belonging to something, even to one person, for one second. When you care deeply for others, it might encourage us to care for ourselves a bit more.
When we find our ships sailing off course we have two choices; continue on that path until someone close to us finally brings us back from the dead...or, nearly destroy ourselves and bring it back on our own. One happens, and the other follows. That's just the truth. It's not a matter of circumstance or place...it's a matter of humanity and the sensitive souls that cripple under its cruel intentions. The good ships won't always sail on course, and they won't always have a smooth voyage, but somehow, someday they will reach their destinations, better for the storms they've gone through.