Here we are again, My Darling Vagabonds
Telling you about the importance of looking at the beauty in the world instead of the boring train tracks and power lines that seem to clutter everything up last Monday reminded me of a walk I took one lunch time. And in true it-must-be-a-sign-even-though-I-don’t-believe-in-signs-so-it-is-clearly-a-coincidence-I’m-going-to-nod-my-head-and-say-huh-in-an-annoyingly-knowing-way-about kind of way I came across an article on Pinterest about the 7 things that Mindful People Do Differently.
I’m not sure that this story fits neatly into any of those boxes but to me it certainly illustrates how our attitudes change the way we experience life. And it is the beginning of a challenge I am setting for myself, and for you. But more on that in a moment. For now to the story…
It was a sunny day and the route down to the boardwalk I like to use takes me past a vacant lot, lots of trash, a dual lane highway, mosquitoes breeding in stagnant puddles… you get the idea. With my eyes firmly fixed on the green field ahead and my face turned to the sun (in a feel-the-warmth-on-my-face way, not a blinded-because-I’m-an-idiot-who-stared-at-the-big-ball-of-burning-gas kind of way) I felt the stress of work slip away as I walked in the sunshine with Ed Sheeran playing through my headphones.
As I walked through the trees I could easily have focussed on the abandoned shopping trolley, the trash in the water or the muggy mangrove air. Instead I saw blue wrens hopping across the ground, the fluffy seed pods floating through the dappled sunlight and the homeless man sitting on the boardwalk shooting up 20 feet ahead of me.
One thing you need to know about me is that until recently I used to be a Youth Worker, working in a refuge with homeless young people. I may shock easily on the inside and be terrified of the world in general, but on the outside it appears to be hard to rattle me. And at that moment, looking at a man who was clearly living in the scruffy tent in the bushes I had walked past minutes before, my training kicked in.
People doing drugs with needles has always scared the hell out of me, regardless of the situation I’m in. And that day was no different.
Without breaking stride I did a quick risk assessment. I could turn and walk the other way, risk offending him and make him angry or keep walking past him as if I had seen nothing, acknowledging him with a friendly greeting as I went. I had already realised that there was no-one around to hear me scream for help if I needed it; and worked out that he was probably faster than me if he turned out to be the type of person who wanted to hurt me. I decided my safest course of action was to continue on.
So I did. And I looked down to where he was sitting, smiled and said hello on my way past.
The end of the boardwalk was not far ahead and there I stopped, did some gently stretching and yoga then turned to walk back past him – there was only one way in and one way out of that mangrove.
As I approached for a second time he had packed his kit away and was sitting there having a beer and a cigarette. He looked up at me, smiled and offered me a smoke. And it was in that moment I saw it. The generosity of spirit it takes to offer a stranger something when you have nothing. I knew that in all the times I had given to strangers or friends it had never cost me in the way it would cost that man to share what he had.
So I stopped. I don’t smoke, but I stopped. To say thank you and decline politely instead of walking by quickly. To give him the respect he was due as a human being and a generous soul.
So that is my story today. A reminder to not only see the best in the world as I talked about last week, but to see the best in people. And to be the best person we can be to the other people sharing this world with us. To be mindful of our words and actions and approach each other with openness and awareness. As we give to each other, we give to ourselves.
So, here we are at the challenge I alluded to at the beginning.
Based on the reminder mindful.org gave me on the 7 ways to live a mindful life, I am challenging myself, and you, to integrate these principles into everyday life. And next week I will be reporting in on the beginning of my personal 7 weeks of Living Mindfully challenge. I encourage you to read along and join me no matter where or when you are reading this. There is a good chance I will fail miserably, snap and kill someone. Or I might surprise us all. You’ll have to come back to find out.
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AKA The Brunch Fuelled Vagabond