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Loyalty, Humanity , and walking each other home.

There’s this idea, this notion that I’ve had for a long time. You know the kind; The thought that starts like a tiny seed stemming off from a quote you read or a fleeting feeling that struck you one day on the subway or your favorite coffee shop, or beneath the stained glass windows of a cathedral.

The tiny idea-seed plants itself inside of you and is nourished over time by other quotes, feelings, and experiences until that seed has grown so BIG that it coils around your heart, pushes up against your rib cage and seems to pulse against your soul reminding you of its existence. With increasing frequency situations are forcing you to decide what to do with this idea, compelling you to choose how it will influence you, informing you that this idea is now a part of who you are and to ignore it, is to reject a piece of your own truth…How can you do that? You can’t! So this idea starts influencing the way you see your world, and you feel compelled to talk about it, to provide accountability for yourself by sharing the idea with others, and then, because its still pulsing inside you and you need to do something else with it, you write it down, or post it in a blog :)

The seed: Ram Das says, “We’re all just walking each other home.”

Think about that for a moment. Let it roll around and see if it takes root in your soul like it does in mine. It strikes me as a beautiful and compelling truth. Here we are, making our way through this life full of wonder and joy and heartache and disaster, but we’re not walking it alone. Every day we come across other travelers to share in our stroll, trek, climb, schlepp, jaunt, or parade (depending on the day). Do you feel the complexity of that? It strikes me that we needn’t be lonely or isolated when there are so many of us sharing in the journey. It strikes me that we bear some responsibility for the kind of company we are when we are walking alongside one another (the people we do life with) or when our paths cross with strangers also traveling on the road. Oughtn’t we acknowledge one another? See one another? Respect and care for one another along the way? Shouldn’t we pay attention when something inside of us leaps at the sight of or plight of a fellow traveler? Are we obligated to each other in some cosmic way, and if so what to do with that obligation?

I am convinced that we are obligated to each other in big ways and in small. I have noticed that since this awareness was birthed in me, I have been coming across more and more opportunities to decide how to live out this truth. I think what stifles us in this quest though, is worrying about things we can not control. How will our choices be perceived by others? What if I am kind and the the kindness was not deserved? What if in bearing the burden of a friend and in walking alongside them in a time of hurt, I am weighed down and my own journey is is compromised in some way? I am disappointed to admit that there are certainly times when it’s in my nature to let these questions dissuade me from what I am sure I am meant to do: to be my best self, my most caring, helpful, genuine, loving, empathetic, resourceful, generous self. I almost always regret the missed opportunity as soon as it has passed. Other times, I am compelled to do better at walking someone home. Recently, I was reminded of how our nature can dissuade us. I was having a marvelous Saturday with my niece of shopping and girliness. On our way home (literally AND metaphorically), we were stuck in traffic and I noticed up ahead a man standing on the median. The sign he held said “I am a homeless Veteran, and any little bit you can spare helps.” Amidst our conversation I was distracted by the man. His demeanor was humble, he didn’t stare into the cars passing him by but rather at his shoes. Of course I’ve passed by similar situations without stopping in the past, I don’t tell those stories in blog posts because they are short and boring, but it happens. I wish it didn’t.

As we got closer and countless cars drove by him without stopping, the need in me to do something only grew. I reached for my purse and my niece started in with the cautions that we all think and say in these situations. “Aunt Christine, it’s nice you want to help him but what if his sign is not true? What if he uses the money to buy drugs or what if he isn’t even a Vet?” All I could do was tell her the truth, that I didn’t want to be just one more person passing him by or pretending not to see him. It is true that I have absolutely no control over how he spends my measly twelve dollars and partially used restaurant gift card, but that’s not on me, is it? I could only control how I would respond to the urging in my own spirit. I could only respond to, or ignore that call. And this time, I was going to give what I had.

I rolled down my window as we approached him and I had to call out to get his attention. He hardly looked at me as I handed him what I’d scrounged up, “Thank you so much for your service, and I’m really sorry I don’t have more” I said, and then he DID look up and straight into my (would you think me dramatic if I said soul?) eyes, and said emphatically, “Don’t you dare apologize to me Miss. I thank you very very much for stopping. God bless you” and he did…bless me…right there in that moment, because I allowed him to, because I opened up my window to make someone else’s walk home the tiniest bit warmer.

If you believe that your soul is traveling through this world but bound for elsewhere, if you believe that maybe, just maybe we are all called to be more than strangers fighting for our own survival, if you believe that just as others have mattered to you, YOU might in turn matter to others, then don’t ignore the call when you hear it, and soon you’ll hear it all of the time, and your soul may just delight in singing the call back with love and kindness until it echoes and multiplies and we are at HOME.

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