Thursday, November 4, 2010

the kindness of strangers

The car was a bit poky this morning when I first started it up, but I chalked it up to the cold and rainy weather. I made it to one appointment then stopped off at Walmart for some staples.

But when I came out of the store, the car refused to start. It clicked ineffectually when I turned the key. I lifted the hood and toyed with the battery wires, hoping there was just a loose connection. No such luck.

It was raining, it was raw and then, when I tried to call AAA, my cell phone didn't work. The albatross represented by a car that didn't work gained another albatross in a cell phone that didn't work.

And as I sat there addressing the helpless sense that rises up in such instances, a fellow pulled up in the next parking space and asked if I needed some jumper cables. We tried unsuccessfully to try the gadget he had. And then he said we might try pushing it and jump-starting the car.

And even in the rain and cold, he helped me to push.

It didn't work and I had to walk to a nearby garage to use the phone ... and everybody there was sympathetic and helpful.

And while I sat in the car waiting for the tow truck, I found that the sense of helplessness and frustration had been blown away by people whose names I did not know. They didn't ask for recognition or accolades, they just did what they thought needed to be done.

When the car got towed to the garage I use, I had to beg for a ride home. Wife, daughter and son were all out of the house and I had to say please once more.

Sure thing. No problem, said Jose.

To me, it all seemed like incredibly good fortune.

To all of these strangers, I think it was as natural as the unforgiving rain that was falling.

Their assistance made me want to act with an equally undemanding kindness when circumstances arose.

Or, as the Dalai Lama once put it, "My religion is kindness."

The difference seemed to be that these people skipped the religion and went straight for the kindness.


  1. We are all pack/herd animals, and unless someone runs up a flag to distinguish them as an "other" pack, same pack is assumed. The race flag is the most obvious, along with accents, but some have taken to heart the story of the good samaritan and make it a point to ignore those flags. When I was young I was told it's impolite to discuss religion or politics or ask ones income. So now I wonder if polite was a euphemism for survival. We cling to self and views. I insist I am not you, I am... And yet, by desiring the same, we are the same. Happiness is possible once the fear is removed, or so I believe. And I'm back at square one, bad buddhist. It seems that trying to understand duality wont eliminate it.

  2. Kindness, as natural as rain. And yet these are the same people who may stab you in the midst of survival, until other is truly self, what pretense is this under yet.

  3. ..this morning i was bemoaning the fact that it is a major challenge getting some people to even acknowledge a "good morning" greeting...or acknowledging when you hold a door open for them.....for them it appears too much effort ....i have often been tempted and close to asking "whats your problem?" but going there may be construed as sign of madness on my part and intimidation; god only knows where it may go from there...better leave sleeping dogs (?) lie? Its affirming to hear, as in your case, people can be nice!

  4. It's amazing how universal kindness can be. It knows no bounds of religion. Great story.

  5. PS my comments above....about saying "Thanks"...i just remembered what Ed Espe Brown said in the "Cooking your Life" documentary about the food offerings to the Buddha and how for years he thought it was a waste of time until he realized the offering was just that.. "an offering", you offer it and the Buddha doesn't say "Thank you....." i guess that's what we have to expect from people....and when we get a "thank you" its a bonus!

  6. All these kind people are (potential) liars.
    Wait for a trouble and these selfish people will lie.

    Lying is appearently not a problem, since that is how we work as pople. But i don't know how i can deal with a liar. Disgusting.

    If i would say that i don't mean you by disgusting i would lie here. But i guess i am not selfish.

    What should come first? Truth then kindness or kindness then truth? I say truth comes first, while hesitating. Haha, i guess the liars won inside my brain.

  7. Tullik.
    I think that when someone does someting nice to you, or you do something nice to someone, then you should get a thank you back. Wheither a smile or a kind word.

    If a dead Buddha does not manage to say thank you when offered for endlessly, then a living being should be able to.

    Of course it would be nice and smooth to be kind without any expectation of reward. But we humans need rewards from our fellow humans. It must be like that taking the future in regard.

    We can namely just not control our life whlile we are asleep and not awakened. We are going to crash one day. Hehe.