One Love

I was in the post office a day ago, getting orders out.  I’d run out of package tape, and asked the woman in front of me if I could slip past her and get the tape hanging on the wall for sale.  It had been a rough day, a rough week, and my mail was full of stuff that required attention and unravelling.  And money.  So as I got the tape and stepped back into my spot in line, I said that I might as well get the package finished and stop reading all that good news.  She turned to look at me, and we had an interaction that struck me right between the eyes.  She laughed about the “good news” we get in the mail, adding that it had been a terrible year for her.  We chatted and compared horror stories.  It developed that her son, aged 25, had died about 18 months before, while in the Army.  I didn’t ask where he’d been- the pain she felt was such a clear, flamelike presence there wasn’t anything to say beyond reaching for her hand.  We were both able to laugh about the ridiculous experience of speaking with bill collectors calling for someone who’s dead.  They ALWAYS insist on talking to that person.  Good luck with that, I said.  That’s what I said! she responded, beaming.   As I left the Post Office I was thinking of the unimaginable enormity of her loss.  The pain would be unendurable at times, and in fact she’d said that at times she just sat and cried all day because she didn’t know what to “do”.  I also thought about how incredibly stupid it is for civilizations to continue this practice of throwing their young’s bodies at each others, to fight to the death, for “patriotism”.

The thing that happened there, the feeling experience of it,  made me think of  something from many years before.  I’d been shopping for something to wear to my husband’s funeral.  As I came out onto Market Street, in San Francisco, I saw a very handsome young man sitting on the sidewalk, begging.  His pain was a flame, too.  We looked at each other for what seemed like a long time but was, probably, a few seconds at most.  I remember thinking, this pain I’m in will end, eventually.  His pain is just beginning.  Of course, for both of us, both those things were true.

In both these instances, a real contact was made, a real feeling and communication from person to person.   No barriers and no pretense, and the question is, why doesn’t that happen more often?  I think acknowledgment is almost the most important thing we can give each other, some times.  Yes, this happened.  This is how it felt.  A witnessing of the truth that one person sees and shares, so that another person sees that truth, too. This act is very liberating, and to me is the real kernel of forgiveness.  You are still, however,  left with the pain.  This may be one of the big things we have to get as humans.  The pain is inevitable although it seems that much of it could be avoided.  But some things are just more than you can bear.  We can’t always keep going.  Some days we have to cry.  The issue is what we do next.  A witness at times can help us see beyond our current horizon, help us keep going.  They validate our experience and keep us from judging ourselves for being human, having weaknesses and sometimes, even falling down.

In this “developed” world,  where everything is digital and on line and at breakneck pace, we are awash in loneliness even as we are surrounded by others.  The press of events, and things, and traffic and everything that goes into making a day seems, often, to keep us from really paying attention to our fellow beings.  Also, it can seem so totally overwhelming what with everything that goes on….disaster after disaster, suffering atop suffering, revelations of perfidy upon revelations of perfidy.  But we cannot shut down in the face of all this.  We have to, I think, anyway, keep ourselves open.  Keep our hands out to those near us, in case they need us.  Or we need them.  Remember we are all the same, really.  We all have hearts- we should use them.

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