Yesterday I went to an amazing conference entitled “The Habits of Stress-Resilient People.” It was sponsored by the Institute for Brain Potential and given by psychologist Dr. Dennis Marikis. We covered topics such as resilience, empathy, stress, mindfulness, and vulnerability. I had signed up in order to get some continuing education credits for my nursing license, but what I got in return was priceless.
You know when you get to laugh, cry, be humbled, and inspired you are getting some good shit. And that was only the first six hours of my day!
After the conference ended I only had 1 hour to spare. In that 1 hour I had to finish writing an essay for yoga teacher training, find a place with WiFi to submit my essay, get some food in me, drive to the yoga studio which was 20 minutes away, change my clothes, and be ready to practice. Ugh I’m stressed just writing this! And imagine, I had just left a conference about stress. Oh the irony!
So there I was. Hurriedly making my way into a crowded Starbucks. And then began the internal dialogue, “Ugh, the line is too long. Screw getting the soy chai. Why the f*** are all these people in here?! Ugh c’mon laptop, why are you SO slow?! Shame on you Emily for not taking responsibility on getting your homework done earlier. You know better.” I choose the first seat I saw and just as I looked up from the little circle of death spinning on my desktop (you know what I’m talking about? That little rainbow wheel that spins when your Mac is being cranky?!) Anyhow…
I LOOKED UP AND THAT’S WHEN I SAW HIM.
“Oh shit. I’m not finishing this essay,” I thought. Here in front of me was a shell of a man. He appeared to be about my age. He was hunched over with his head in his hands. He wore dingy, ripped jeans and a pale, yellow sweatshirt with the hood pulled over his head. At his feet was a small backpack and on the table in front of him a single bottle of water. His facial expression was one of sadness and despondency. He lifted his head a few times and looked around. He looked absolutely lost. My heart started to pound and my breath became shallow and erratic. Ironically, I was writing an essay about pranayama, or breath control, which is the fourth limb of yoga (there are 8 limbs for those of you that are curious). I used my breath to slow myself down. I let go of the fear and anxiety. And just for your entertainment here is what the anxiety and fear sounded like in my head, “What if he gets angry at you? What if he yells? What if you say the wrong thing? What if you make him more sad? What if he thinks you’re crazy?” Ridiculous, right!?
I leaned over to the woman sitting next to me and asked to borrow her pen. She was packing her things up and reluctantly handed it over to me. I pulled out a scrap piece of paper and started to write something along the lines of this – I noticed you the minute I sat down. You look so sad. I am so sorry for whatever has brought you this much pain. Please know you are a gift to this world – a gift to me. This was given to me months ago and I don’t need it. If you need it please accept this and if you don’t need it please pass it along to someone who does. I hope I get to see your smile someday. – Emily.
I wrapped the note around the Cumberland Farms gift card and gently approached him. He had his head back down so I knelt down and said, “I hope tomorrow is a better day for you.” He raised his furrowed brow and looked at me with a puzzled expression. I handed him the note and he asked, “What’s this?” I simply said, “It’s for you.” Perhaps I saw a sliver of hope in his eyes. But I’m not sure. I didn’t stay to see his reaction. But I do know this. A random act of kindness is love. The ripple effect starts with just 1 person. It takes only 1 person to change the world.
HOW CAN YOU BE THAT ONE PERSON TODAY AND EVERYDAY?