Barreling through the aisles of my super-sized (they sell everything from diamonds to crap made couches) grocery store, list in hand fighting with the apathetic people milling around me picking out apples at the pace of a one legged tortoise, oblivious to the fact that I was in a real race against time desperate to get out the door and to my chair yoga class that started in just 20 minuets! Throwing my items in the cart with such accurate precision I could have won the giant pink giraffe at the county fair everyone covets. Dodging other shoppers with stealth like ability as I maneuver my cart like I am in a way less offensive version of the video game, Grand Theft Auto. I pull out of the parking lot, cussing like a sailor as one car (or drivable land yacht, I am still not sure which it was) decides to stop in the middle of the row, pretty as you please, holding everyone up, waiting…on what I have no blessed idea, and because I had no idea I honked my horn. Twice. She is not phased at all by the 3rd grade temper tantrum I am throwing in my car behind her, hands flailing, head shaking in disgust until finally the woman who apparently had to take a majority vote with the electoral college riding with her before she actually puts the car in reverse and leaves her spot.
Free at last as I race down the road toward the calm and tranquil waters of my yoga class. I had never been to this location so I pull over in the general area, my left knee and right achilles already throbbing in some vindictive unified beat from walking to East Uzbekistan in the grocery where they apparently find it’s best to keep the San Marzano tomatoes. I get out of my car, grab my bags, and pivot to turn around when I almost run into him. There he stood, a small man with a big coat, brown bangs and giant chocolate drop eyes, unbeknownst to him, in an instant he would be wearing my petulance, which I spat all over him with words that I am pretty ashamed to admit.
He was holding a plastic bag, and I was ready for him, ready for his story of woe and I soooo did not have time to deal with him right then. I was on my way to YOGA, I was late to ground myself, meditate, find peace and by god open my clogged up chakras! The man did not speak English very well, but I heard the word “favor”, and that was my cue. “No, I don’t have anything, not a dime, not a dollar, nothing. Do you have a dollar that I can borrow?” He just looked at me confused, shaking his head. I practically spat the words at him as I walked off down the street looking for the address of my Yoga studio. I realized I was in the wrong block so I stomped (well not really, it was more of a stompy limp) back to my car. Now really frustrated, late and just plain mad, I glared at him sitting on the stoop of a building just in front of my car. He had his head down and held tight to that plastic bag in his hand which dangled low to the ground. I sped off and glanced up into my rear view mirror with a foul look etched on my face as I sat at the end of the short block waiting for the red light to change watching him like a hawk, watching him reach into that plastic bag pulling out a pair of jumper cables which he carefully laid across his lap.
My heart sank but I didn’t go back even though that was my initial instinct. Oh no, I went ahead to yoga class where I struggled to focus, cried, dedicated my practice to the man holding the jumper cables and felt so incredibly ashamed of myself. I decided I would go back, I would help him. By God I would get his car jumped even if I had to call AAA myself to get it done, I would be so nice and I would look him in the eye and apologize. I even looked it up on my phone, I would say to him…”Lo siento mucho . Déjame ayudarte.” which is “I am so sorry, let me help.” I practiced in the car circling the block, hoping I wouldn’t muck it up and accidentally say something even worse than what I said to him in English.
I drove around and around, I looked up and down all the side streets, desperate to find him I even scoped out people on front porches. Dammit I had to find this guy, let him know I am not mean, I am not heartless. I didn’t know he really needed help. I pulled over at 10th and York because I was crying so hard, very aware of the lesson, and even more aware of my inaction and the consequences. Sometimes you don’t get to make it better, you don’t get a “do-over” or the opportunity to apologize when you act out of haste and selfishness, and you often don’t get it right when you judge people and assume the worst. I realize some people might read this and think, get over it lady, it was one guy who needed a jump for his crappy car, it’s not a big deal. I choose to see it differently, I had one shot to show this man that there are good people in the world, people who are helpful and kind to strangers, that give a helping hand when needed. I had a chance to be the kind of person so many people have been to me in the moments I needed a jump start along the way. A moment where a random act of kindness had potential to connect two strangers, and to make a difference for both of us. Going forward I am more aware that those moments are in fact kind of fragile, a test, an opportunity to change the world one small incident at a time, and that is the world I want to be a part of even when I don’t deserve it.
According to yoga teacher Aadil Palkhivala “The gesture Namaste represents the belief that there is a divine spark within each of us that is located in the heart chakra. The gesture is an acknowledgment of the soul in one by the soul in another.”
Namaste to the man, on the stoop, holding the jumper cables. Thank you for the gift of awareness today.