I often see an old man standing outside of my local convenience store. His clothes well used and tattered and his face weathered from many hard years. His hands gnarled and broken.
He stands all day and rarely strays from his spot at the corner of the store.
I don’t know his name, I’ve imagined his name was “Joe.”
It is obvious that Joe has very few worldly possessions and his home is probably a place that would make most of us cringe. And while Joe seems to have very little, there’s something very curious about him.
He is always smiling.
Even on the hottest or coldest days, he spends most of this time greeting customers going into the store and waving at people driving by; always with the biggest smile and kindest eyes you’ve ever seen. And when you get up close to Joe, you can see that his eyes are so bright and piercing, you almost can’t look away.
His absolute attention is on people.
It seems that money doesn’t have the same impact on Joe that it has on most of us. Clearly he has very little means, yet he smiles. Clearly his past has been troubled and he has endured immense pain; yet he carries on.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” – Plato
His currency is something much deeper…something that most of us have forgotten.
Joe is looking for connection with others.
He just wants to love and to be loved. The highlight of his day is when someone stops and spends a moment talking with him and seeing him as a person or just as someone who is worth talking to.
In the Beginning
As children, we begin life looking at the world with open hearts, unbridled curiosity, and with limitless possibilities. We marvel at new experiences and see all things without bias. We smile for no reason and we trust with open hearts.
We love without restriction and we thrive on being loved.
We are connected to people and the world around us.
But something happens to us as we get older.
Those feelings and sense of wonderment dies or gets buried deep down. We get caught up in mortgages, cars, jealousy, power, the lies we tell ourselves and the lies told to us by others that crush us. Life crushes the child we used to be. The child we once were is lost.
We grow hard. We get selfish. We get cynical. We stop breathing deeply. We stop living and seeing the world as it is or as it could be.
We lose connection with ourselves and with others.
Rich or Poor?
It is a common, yet very subtle switch. It is so subtle we don’t see it or feel it happen because it happens gradually over a long period of time. Our love of people is replaced with the love of money and expensive “things.” We try to fill the void of not living our passion and not being free to be ourselves with stuff we buy. We hide away. We close ourselves off.
The money we make and the stuff we buy is never enough.
So we work harder and harder to try and get more money and buy more things.
The illusion of certainty and fulfillment with money and material things takes us further away from that child of long ago. We lose a sense of who we are and who we hoped to become those many years ago.
We don’t see when we do harm to others, we harm ourselves. When we lie to others, we lie to ourselves. When we lose connection to others, we lose connection to ourselves.
But, even in this never-ending cycle that many of us never get out of, there is hope.
We can reconnect with humanity with a simple idea that is available to all of us. It costs no money. It takes little effort. It is so simple, yet it can change the course of our lives.
Kindness is the Answer
Kindness will allow you to forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made. Forgive yourself for the lies you’ve told. Forgive yourself for the people you’ve hurt.
Kindness can overcome any obstacle.
An act of kindness for another human being will allow you to feel again. And it will become addictive. You’ll want to have that feeling every day, every minute, every second. That amazing feeling you get from an act of kindness will overcome you and it will start to change you.
It will give you inner strength, a feeling of self-worth, a feeling of connection to others and the world.
“Kindness” covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.” – Roger Ebert
Make kindness your goal with every action and with every thought. With every gift, with every statement of appreciation, with every smile, with every hug – kindness will consume you and take over everything in your life.
And this will give you power. And this power will give you strength to take action for your dreams and give you more than money ever will.
In the End
At the end of our lives we come full circle. The power we gave money and material things gives way to love again. Connection with people. Wanting to feel. Wanting to be surrounded by those we care about.
The need for family and friends overwhelms us because we finally understand the meaning of life. Our life experiences showed us that the world is a cold dark place without love and connection. Our negative thoughts, fears, and attachments to material things were just illusions that took us further away from the true meaning of our life.
“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” – Albert Einstein
We are all struggling to make sense of this whole thing. We are all fighting a tough battle.
If we can live with the understanding that WE ARE ONE, together in our struggle, we can finally look at the world again as if we were looking at it for the first time; with happiness, with hope, with kindness, and with a smile ….
Like a child.
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By Smitty on April 11th, 2013
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