I have always believed that travel opportunities provide the very best education. When you intentionally remove yourself from your own comfy little corner of the world to experience other cultures, lifestyles, and types of communities, you can only return with a greater understanding of humanity, as well as yourself.
Leaving the solace of home became essential, for this highly sensitive, extreme introvert, when my children chose to seek their “fortunes” in far flung cities across the country.
This past Sunday evening, I began my two-week long journey to visit them in Chicago and Portland, OR., when I boarded the direct flight from OGS to ORD to visit my son, Ian, and his partner, Cassidy for three days, before heading out to spend a week with my daughter, Kenzie.
This was my third visit to the “windy city.” I deeply appreciate the ease of moving around urban areas; my friends and family are surprised that I miss living in Boston and that I would ever consider living in a city, again. The CTA and your feet will get you pretty much anywhere you want to go, in my case, on Monday morning, from Ian and Cassidy’s apartment in Edgewater to the Lincoln Park Conservatory and Zoo, the River Walk, “the Loop,” and back “home.” My adventure started at the corner of N. Sheridan and W. Catalpa at 9:30 am on the #151 bus.
I soon discovered that mid-morning is when all of the folks who rely on walkers utilize the bus to get their groceries and do errands. As #151 proceeded down North Sheridan, a few shouting matches ensued when those with carts and walkers got on or off and collided in the narrow confines of the front of the bus. At one point, an older woman was trying to get off with her walker and another older gentleman was trying to get on with his, which was over-loaded with his belongings. Their tires became entangled and everyone simply sat there and watched these two physically disabled elders struggle, while the bus driver waited. Hesitantly, I put my backpack down on the seat, stood up and lifted the lady’s cart up and over so that she could disembark. The remainder of the three-mile journey was a thought provoking, and, not to mention, eye-opening experience to the day to day reality of people living in poverty and hardship in the close confines of the city.
In that 40-minute trip to Lincoln Park, I vowed to make it my mission to smile and send out positive vibes filled with kindness and goodwill for the remainder of the day.
See, I believe it is possible to lighten someone’s mood by greeting them with a real smile and a “good morning,” assisting those who are encumbered with bags, carts, or strollers and other belongings, or even starting a casual conversation.
What would happen if, our elders were respected, honored, and taken care of as the wise people, they really are, in our society? What if everyone felt “seen” and important? Could we change the world one bus full of people at a time? I am convinced that the answer is, “yes, absolutely!”
That answer, however, relies heavily on every single one of us making it our mission to instigate a kindness revolution – fueling a transformation of our culture with compassion, empathy, and respectful dialogue, which leave blame and judgment behind.
I never imagined that meek little old me could ever be a revolutionary. But, there you have it. I, categorically, refuse to stand by to witness suffering of any kind. No, I am not in the southwest getting arrested for bringing water to desperate people, in an inhospitable environment, seeking a safe place to bring their children. Nevertheless, I am that person who smiles, reassures with a slight touch on the arm, and stands up, completely outside my comfort zone, to help another – allowing them to continue on with their day – hopefully, feeling a bit more cheerful, relevant, and less burdened.
This insurrection is dependent on every single one of us vowing to support, comfort, sustain, mentor, and simply love one another, despite all of our petty differences. Along with, understanding that diversity, in all of its forms (ethnic, neuro, gender, sexual orientation, spiritual, age, socioeconomic, etc.), can only make us stronger. And, fully comprehending that our survival as a species, totally depends on all of the above.
Yesterday, on my third day in Portland, I had the opportunity to witness a beautiful interaction between a talented, aged, busker playing drums, harmonica, and accordion at the Skidmore Fountain, a young boy he invited to play the cymbal, together with a baby in her father’s arms, who was borrowing his shaker. He played and sang a classic rock song while the boy hit the cymbals, mostly, randomly. Then he played Twinkle -Twinkle with them, while I sat on the edge of the fountain utterly captivated. This particular encounter may have seemed like an accident of my meandering explorations; however, I chose to see it as one more sign that the kindness revolution has, indeed, begun.
This was just one of a thousand serendipitous moments that pop up, every day, without any warning, to gently remind us to slow down, live in the moment, and bow in gratitude for the amazingly, creative, and brilliant generosity of our fellow humans.