Just a quick thought. In the last few days I have managed to do a couple of things that surprised people. I'm ashamed to say that I hesitated before doing both of them, but in both cases doing nothing was my first instinct. Let me explain:
On the first occasion, I had been sent out in my role as provider for the family to gather dinner. As my hunting and gathering skills are extraordinarily weak, I chose to visit the fish and chip shop. After a brief exchange with the shopkeeper, I was retreating to the waiting wall when I noticed that the change I had been given didn't seem right. I counted and recounted but every time I ended up with $10 more than I should have had. Counting change is a longterm habit and where it comes out wrong I am usually the worse off - and most of the time I am too meek to go back and sort it out. After those brief tempting justifications floated through my mind 'this is karma, to make up for all those other times', '$10 will make a bigger difference to you than to this busy shop', I decided to return the extra change. I had to wait until the next person was finished ordering and then took my chance to explain what had happened and handed the money back. The look of shock on the shopkeepers face was something I had seen before. He honestly didn't know what to say. He paused for a moment, accepted the money and then thanked me. And then thanked me again.
Tonight, I headed out for an evening walk and less than 2 minutes into it came across a young woman sitting by the side of the road crying. I was striding quickly, music playing in earphones, all set to avoid human contact of any kind. 'Maybe I had been mistaken in what I saw', 'What business is it of mine anyway?'. I pulled out the earphones and walked back the 10 or so metres it had taken me to make the decision. I don't know what she must have thought at first when this man came up to her off the street, but after a few kind words I seemed to have put her at ease and had been assured that she was safe and could get home alright. I don't doubt that quite a few people had walked past her already and that she was quite shocked that someone would bother to stop. Again, her thanks was genuine.
Don't get me wrong. I'm no angel. I have missed many more occasions to do good than I have caught. But I hope that I'm learning something. Not that I am looking for gratitude or the self-satisfaction of being a do-gooder. I believe that these brief interactions really do make a difference to people. I know that when they've happened to me that I have remembered them. They are significant because we are all familiar with the impulse to ignore hurt - and sometimes the fear that we will get hurt ourselves. It's way easier to let our own busyness carry us along and to be caught up in our own lives, to the detriment of others.
I'm sure this is a lesson that I've learned before. Hopefully I'm learning it quicker this time :-)