Writing

A Capacity For Kindness

by | Oct 31, 2022 | 0 comments

I took a tumble in a local mall recently. Making a sharp turn through the gap between a pair of upholstered benches, I discovered there actually was no gap between those benches. A low table occupied the space. Which was a fact that soon had me sprawled on the floor in the midst of Saturday afternoon shopping. Sprawled with my hat and glasses, my water bottle and backpack skittering away from me.

In a matter of seconds, three strangers appeared at my side. One had gathered up all of my errant belongings. One gently encouraged me to remain where I was for a while. The third wanted to determine if medical assistance was necessary.

In retrospect, what strikes me most about this event is how quickly these people came to my aid. It could not have been more than five seconds before the first of them arrived. I don’t think it was any more than ten before the last was there.

This does not allow too much time for deliberation. I cannot imagine any of them having an opportunity to think, ‘Do I like this fellow who has just had a spill?’ ‘Do I agree with his politics?’ ‘Is lending a hand something I really want to do here?’ I cannot imagine any of these three entertaining such questions in the sliver of seconds before they were kneeling near me. Instead, it seems they simply saw somebody had fallen – fallen quite badly – and were moved to respond.

It was as if something basic in who they were – something more fundamental than preferences and positions, plans and expectations – had impelled them forward. Which the meditative tradition would wholly agree with.

According to this view, we are all born with certain innate capacities. Capacities for clarity. Capacities for sensitivity. Capacities for responsiveness. Meditation deepens our relationship with each of these, certainly. But not one of these qualities is exclusive to practitioners alone. They are inherent within each of us. They are waiting within us all. Waiting to simply flow through us and come into this world.

Looking back, I like to believe they were waiting within each of those strangers who swiftly came to my side a couple weeks ago. Came to my side to offer whatever aid, whatever assistance might be necessary. Came to my side and, in so doing, reaffirmed for me something basic about us as human beings. Reaffirmed the amazing capacity for kindness we all share.

– Neil

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