Kindness From a Stranger

It’s the season for random acts of kindness, and this month I have a small, but beautiful experience to share with you that happened to me a couple of weeks ago.

Last month I practically lived at Starbucks in order to complete my writing goals. Sometimes with friends, and sometimes alone, I always try to sit by the window. The view, no matter how abysmal, always gives my gaze and mind freedom to explore something larger than the room I’m sitting in.

One November evening, I was sitting alongside the window by myself when the sun was setting, the clouds a brilliant orange, a unique beauty to be had for where I live. As much as I complain about my geography, there have been quite a few show stopping sunsets to behold. I’m naturally someone who gets energy from the sun, so when it goes down, I’m immediately tired. Likewise, when it comes up, I find it hard to sleep, as if caffeine could be transferable through light and the moment it beams into the room, I’m suddenly lighter, energized, and happy. So I tried to get work done, but in this few passing moments where the setting sun was changing in such divine ways, I made sure to look up every few minutes to integrate with this beauty. One never knows when the sun will come out again here at this time of year. I looked straight at it, imagining the light passing through my skin and becoming a part of me, a keeper of the light.

It turned out that someone noticed my attempt to become one with the sunset. Shortly after the sun went down, I packed up and headed out the door. Someone politely stopped me from behind when I got outside.

“Excuse me, this is very awkward for me, but I just wanted to give you this.” said a middle aged man with a foreign accent that I couldn’t identify. He handed me a folded up napkin. Confused and curious, I said some surprised and enthusiastic exclamation of “okay” and went to my car to read it. Here is what it said:

   My favorite thing about this is that this person did not leave their number. They wanted no involvement, nothing to gain from the interaction. They simply had the pure intention of recognizing the beauty in another person and wanting to make sure they knew that. As someone with little faith in humanity, this touched my heart on such a deep level, and for the first time in a long time, I had some hope for the kind of people that are out there. I felt like there must be people who see each other for more than just objects, and more than what they want them to be for their own interests. There are truly those who are able to recognize a genuine moment, or characteristic in a person, and leave it at that appreciation.

   But the thing is, this experience did not end there. Shortly after that, I found myself back at the same Starbucks where the tables had turned, and I felt compelled to do something kind for someone else. It was night this time, and a boy and his mother sat at the table across from me. I’m usually very caught up in my work, but something about this boy’s stature and expression screamed at me. With no life in his face, he looked out the window as his mom spoke at him, occasionally getting caught up in whatever he had on his lap top. I felt like no part of him wanted to be there, and I wondered how this could be, until someone else joined them and I realized what was happening. They were there to meet with someone who could help him apply to colleges. Instantly I understood this boy’s dread, and went back to my work with the case solved. Some time afterward, I heard the guest get a bit louder and frantic in his speech, so I looked up. The poor boy was crying, and in his eyes I saw myself. It was a person who had completely lost hope. He did not believe that his efforts were good enough, whether they were or not, who knows, but in this day and age when immense pressure is put on youth to get high scores and do every extracurricular activity known to youth, it can be unbearable. I had the same feeling, the same reality, both in high school and into college. I started to hear more of what this guest was saying.

“You have a score of _____… What this college wants is ____…I’ve known people with ______ get into _______… I think you have a great chance with _____… You do sports, you do everything. That’s going to make you more sellable… Do you do varsity? Mention _____ and it will be a great essay… What’s a good attribute to describe yourself? Like, would you say that you’re the life of the party? People always say they’re going to get good grades but what are you going to offer to the university?”

I was ready to vomit just listening to this. Since when did people become numbers and a sales pitch? Immediately, I ripped out a piece of paper from my sketch book and started writing.

   In my note to him, I was quite frank. I made it very honest, and made it clear that it was from a perspective that had been through it all. I gave it a sense that although this feels like the end of the world, it is all a lot of hype and unnecessary stress (I believe I specifically chose the word ‘bullshit’ as my adjective. It has been my favorite adjective as of late). I told him that future me would want my past self to know that my dreams are valid and worthwhile, but that they’re going to change. They are not fixed. That’s a part of life. So if everything is constantly changing anyway, there’s no use in having so much turmoil over what will or will not be. I told him that he was not a number, or a sellable commodity, that he had something to offer no matter what the school boards wanted. I told him that life was short, and to be truly fulfilled is to find what your authentic self has to offer, and provide that. I told him that in the end it was all going to work out, which is needed to be heard after putting so much hard work and stress into something of this magnitude. Although it was incredibly awkward, like it was for that guy who saw my face looking into the sun, the kindness that I was given gave me the courage to stop him on the way out the door and give him my note.

You never know what people are going through. You never know what is happening in a person’s life, or inner world. This is why kindness, and most of all speaking up when no one else will, is so important. I don’t have to go into rates of suicide or how stressful modern day life can be. Anyone reading this will know and can relate in their own way. So please, if you see someone struggling, do something small for that person. If you notice something beautiful in a stranger, compliment them, or simply tell them what you see. It’s the time of the year when everyone needs it, and when the spirit of the holidays makes it viable.

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Kerry Jane

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Waiting For Now

A dull neutrality can be born out of the ups and downs of life. The inertia of this middle ground is likened to quicksand, where any movement or struggle just sends you down further into the muck. You don’t move an inch and you don’t dare to take a breath of hope in fear that it’ll make the situation worse. The possibility of never breaking free from that moment arises, but panicking would only quicken the descent. Blindness to the predicament doesn’t do a service either. You may forget about your impediment and make a fatal move. So you numbly surrender to the outcome, to the molasses that is the present.

Is this the true essence of now? Is this what the spirit of the present feels like? No, I’d say the real present is something much more joyful. It is freedom, love, purity of sheer existence. It is much like the literal representation in The Muppet Christmas Carol where a jovial red headed muppet sings a song for Scrooge to teach him a lesson about the magic of now. It is what we always expectantly project into the future, either just beyond the horizon, or much farther. It’s hard to live in the moment when it does not feel worthy of living in. I currently have not come to a conclusion, or have found any answer that gives guidance to this at this juncture of my life. I’ve even thrown around the idea of trying to write a short story about this in an attempt to find the answer. I would title it, like I have in this post, ‘Waiting For Now’.

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When what we want is in the distance, we attach that spirit of joy of the present along with it. I guess this is why many “new agers” talk so much about trying to attain abundance by already feeling like you have what you want. Time is, after all, only linear within the confines of our human perception. It is this idea that pushes me to imagine that I am in fact not sitting in a Starbucks on Long Island, but a privately owned cafe in California as I write this. I have already written Metanoia, and it is providing a second income so that I don’t have to work 40+ hour weeks to survive, so that I can explore other passions and ways of making money. I imagine the world going to shit, but that it doesn’t matter because the world I created for myself is safe and abundant with people and situations I’m meant to be around and encounter.

But my imagination can only take me so far in time and space. No matter how much I day dream, the reality is that I will wake up in the same bed tomorrow. Despite how ever introspective and insightful my followers might think I am, I do not know how to deal with this unfortunate reality, especially after trying so hard to change it. Where is the proverbial now, and how do I get there when traditional human customs do not bring me joy?

Right now I look outside and I see flowers bloomed in a summer that I waited so long for. If I had to guess I would say that it is the very nature of our lifestyles that makes it so impossible for us to be happy enough with the mere sight of this bloomed flower, and nothing else. Our lifestyles do not allow for a moment to fully enjoy the flower, the trip to the beach, or the camping trip. Have you ever felt an overwhelming sense of desperation while watching a sunset or playing a fun game, and then become confused about this sensation that came on so suddenly? I do almost ever week, and when it comes I don’t even feel like it is my own.

 In these moments I am uncontrollably mourning the death of the divine colors cast by the setting sun before it’s even over. I am lamenting over the fact that precious moments come in crumbs rather than wholesome meals.  I feel desperate to lose that moment because I’m allotted so few of them in a summer that becomes winter with the blink of an eye. I feel desperate to lose it because it is the only thing I truly value in this world, over anything that I can buy, or any lame social interaction that is to be had in this materialistic world. I value these crumbs more than the industry and the regimented lifestyle that consume every person. I don’t know when the next instance of oneness and belonging will come and when the sunset is gone, I feel like I have to part with my soul indefinitely. I have to go back to the quicksand, to the muck and the mud of a false present. I don’t want to be left alone with that fabrication any longer. That is how and why I find myself waiting for now, and I wonder if there is anyone waiting along with me.

Perpetual Moment

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Heaven is not so much a place as it is a perpetual moment.

The air is somehow both cool and warm as I breathe the saline scent of ocean air into my lungs. There’s no one in sight when I scan the horizon, but I do not feel alone. In fact, I feel more accompanied than I ever have been. The sunrise is welcomed, casting slightly different shades of orange and gold than it did when it left the day before. I drift off into contemplation…

I’ve learned at a very young age that people can be an unreliable source of love. It’s not necessarily their fault, we are only human. Families move. People lose interest, find a new person, or new group to associate with. In the worst cases, some will even be subjected to their own mortality early on. It’s not complicated. Others are not always going to be there for you, whether they can help it or not.

I’ve also come to find that everyone has a different idea of loyalty, and that others won’t always try to see from different perspectives in the way I do. I’ve become accustomed to the fickleness of human beings, even learned to anticipate it.

However, it is true what they say: when one door closes, another one opens, and sometimes for a good reason.

I had a unique childhood, cast away on barrier islands on the south shore of Long Island. I was able to find love in the extraordinary, beyond flesh and bone, and I am thankful for it. I found love in the persistent undulation of the Atlantic. I found love not just in the heart of others, but in the heart of nature. I found solace in the relentless way waves crash and recede. I found it in the micro and macro cosmos of all things, both living and seemingly inert. I found it in the potential of a drop of salt water. I developed a deeper appreciation for the physical properties and processes that govern our world. I began to associate love with what was raw, and unseen, as I knew there was more than what my eyes informed me.

I’ve learned almost everything I need to carry on with life in the temple of nature, a perpetual moment of love.