Take the risk, it gets easier

Take the risk, it gets easier

The kindness revolution is about fostering connection in a culture where aversion, disinterest and suspicion are the norm.

Taking a risk –  pulling away from our devices, and pushing through the fog of isolation is a first step.

As you ride the bus, walk in the street, and take the elevator – does it sometimes occur to you that behind those impenetrable faces may lie heartbreak, perseverance, and phoenix-like resilience that has the power to move and transform you?

In order for the kindness revolution to take hold, each one of us needs to take action:

Step 1. Feel what you feel.

Step 2. Self-soothe with acceptance and compassion.

Step 3. Feel both the urge to reach out and the discomfort of doing so.

Step 4: Get curious.

Step 5: Connect even when it’s uncomfortable.

I was on my way from downtown back to my West Broadway office when I witnessed how hard, and how easy this can be.

The bus was almost empty.

As we went up the street a man boarded the bus who was about three feet tall. His legs were less than half the size of his torso and he had no arms. The stubble on his face gave his big dark eyes, and dark hair a haunting look.

His body – this body he lives his life in – is so dramatically different that I felt hijacked by the urge to stare or look away. I needed compassionate presence to resist these reactions.

The man must have been close to thirty years old, and he carried a thin wooden dowel in his back pack.

I sat holding my book, and was in awe of how much effort it took for him to use the dowel like a lever to pry open the zipper on his backpack.

He needed to use a combination of jaw and neck muscles to grasp hold of the dowel, and manoevre its steel hook onto the end of the zipper.

It took him a good five minutes and obvious effort but he finally succeeded in looping the hook into the end of the zipper. He then gripped the dowel in between his jaw and collar bone and pulled the zipper shut.

I have no words to describe how I felt as I watched this incredible human.

The perseverance required for him to accomplish a task that I do multiple times a day without even thinking about was beyond humbling.

I felt the urge to offer him help, or to strike up a conversation, but this urge felt stuck.

Was it fear?

What if he felt offended or belittled by my offer to help?

Even though he sat right in front of me, that space between us felt impenetrable.

Pretty soon we came to his stop. The bus was now full and there was a young woman maybe twenty standing beside my seat.

“Hey,” the man said, addressing her, “Can you help me with my zipper?”

“Sure,” she said, “No problem”, and reached down to zip up his pack.

He slid his dowel into the front pocket, placed the backpack on the seat, and then tucked his armless shoulder bones under the straps.

The bus lurched forward, then back.  Standing in the aisle he rocked from his back to front foot to maintain his balance, then shot the girl a playful grin as he said,

“Getting ready for the snow board season!”

She smiled, and then he was gone.

It takes courage to open and connect when we have so much practice hunkering down into the safety of our book or device.

Often we’ve had experiences of reaching out and being rejected that influence what we do in the moment, i.e. not take that risk.

This is the paradox of vulnerability: it takes incredible strength to reach out when you’re not sure if that person will reciprocate.

We don’t need to be controlled by the past, or by the fear that drives isolation.

Deep down we are wired to connect.

Doing it – reaching out even when it’s uncomfortable – gets easier with repetition:

Step 1. Feel what you feel.

Step 2. Self-soothe with acceptance and compassion.

Step 3. Feel both the discomfort and the urge to reach out.

Step 4: Get curious.

Step 5: Connect even when it’s uncomfortable.


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