One person at a time
As published in Elephant Journal 8/5/17
I see a young woman punished by a mind that differs from my own pushing a shopping cart through the dregs of society.
The aisles of humanity staggered randomly like blockades of sheeple that spite or ignore or pretend she does not even exist.
She winds carefully through the labyrinth. A test of the gods. A test of her worthiness that she believes she failed long ago.
I wonder: What test? What god would be so cruel to allow this woman, who carries the spark of the divine itself within her breast, to live like this? Why threaten to extinguish the gift of that spark?
I step in front of this woman, only occasionally glancing behind, and part the cascade of ignorance like Moses in a sea of flesh so she can make her way to the hovel that is her home.
I see a man on a corner with a worn sign that says “will work for food” and I know, without a doubt, that he has neither worked nor eaten in far too long. I watch the constant flow of people pass by like a river of wealth that is just beyond his reach while he slowly dies from dehydration.
I wonder: Why should he work for what the planet gives freely? Why should he be reduced to begging for that which comes naturally?
I step into the closest convenience store, a place convenient only to those with means, and spend what little is left on my debit card to ensure that he will not go another day without that which is his right, and I bring it to him with one request—that if he knows another who has not eaten, he share it. He looks at me and offers a portion, and I gently refuse because I have a job.
I see an old man struggling to carry his meager supplies to his humble home. He staggers under the weight of the few small bags that are his sole source of sustenance for the next month. His “retirement” is barely enough to pay for the two rooms in an ancient building that could, at any time, be condemned and leave him homeless.
I cross the street, add my own bags to his, and carry them all to the crumbling facade which represents the dreams of his youth. Without a word, I leave all the bags, including my own, at his door and walk away in silence as he speaks the only word we shared in those six blocks, “Why?”
I wonder: Where did he work so hard that I can see the memories of his past etched deeply into his face? Why did the system he paid into for so long leave him with not so much as cab fare to transfer a true month’s worth of food? Why would my actions, which seem so natural to me, leave him questioning my motives?
When I return home, I see myself in the mirror: this man that proclaims love, who shares it freely with the hungry, who widens the aisle with his imposing figure and intimidates the sheeple with a glance so the meek can pass, who carries the bags for those who are too weak to carry them, and leaves them with more than they started with—where would he be if not for the love and care of the one person who first offered the very same compassion that he feels for others: his Self.
I see their faces in my reflection. I feel their pain, know their suffering, and, in fact, share it.
Where would I be? Exactly where I am now—with them.
I quietly acknowledge my gratitude to a universe that gave me the gift of this vision and know that I am home.
If you want to change the world, begin with yourself, and then carry that change into the world one person at a time.
Author: J.M. Greff
Editor: Travis May