Today is celebrated as a day to give thanks. I am truly fortunate to have countless blessings in my life, and for this, I am grateful.
A spirit of gratitude naturally lends itself towards generosity and compassion. I reflect on how these qualities were naturally abundant in me as a child and young adult. The passage of time, impact of stress, multiple assaults of heartbreak, and nearly 12 years of living in the face-paced, ambitious, and at times, self-centered way of life in NYC have all contributed to a closing of my heart. This pains me deeply. I long to live my life meaningfully, with an open and compassionate heart.
This morning I was struck with guilt and regret at my own conditioned, selfish behavior. While I was waiting for my train at Penn Station, on my way to spend a day with my loving family where we will eat indulgently, a man approached me and said, “Hello. I am in need of a dollar”. I replied, “I’m sorry”. He said, “You’re sorry?” and walked away.
This happens all the time in NYC, but there was something different about this time. There was something different about this man. I’ve been thinking about it since. I’m trying not to get consumed by my own guilt (to which I am prone) and instead focus on learning from the situation. This fellow human expressed to me his need, a need I could have helped him with, but didn’t. I know it is not easy to ask a stranger for money. Just imagine doing so yourself. It can invoke a sense of shame or embarrassment. Anger and disappointment may arise when repeatedly rejected. And yet, he acted with courage and asked for help.
Afterwards, I spent time wishing him well and hoping he finds the dollar he needs. I asked for a future opportunity to help someone in need, and I contemplated why I reacted that way, especially since I was feeling charitable. I remembered how much more generous I was before moving to NYC. Over time, you realize you cannot give a dollar to everyone in need - sadly, the need is too great in this city of striking wealth inequality. I went from giving a dollar to everyone that asked to always saying no. I know that I cannot fulfill the needs of everyone living in poverty, but I can approach each situation anew. Rather than reflexively saying no, I can take the time to evaluate the uniqueness of each situation, as well as how I’m feeling and how able I am to give in that moment. And then I can decide, rather than reacting out of prior conditioning. This is true freedom.
So, in the spirit of gratitude, generosity, compassion, and freedom, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving.