stepping into each others’ stories

stepping into each others’ stories

– the miraculous, interwoven tapestry of life
 

Have you ever noticed how we sometimes seem to almost out of the blue step right into a specific playing story of some stranger’s life? It is like you are experiencing your own familiar movie and all of a sudden something happens, the channel is switched, and you are in a totally different movie altogether; someone else’s movie. Whether for a brief passing moment, or for a longer stretch of time, the two movies coincides and become one for that experience. Or said differently, if we take the analogy of each person’s life is a unique movie, then for the different movies of each individual involved in an encounter, this specific scene will occur simultaneously in all of the movies, unexpectedly.

In fact, this happens all the time – perhaps each time we interact with another living being. Often we don’t notice, but when we are drawn into an intense situation with a seemingly complete stranger, this phenomenon becomes much more visible.

“What I know now is that we’re all interconnected and that’s a really beautiful thing. We have links to everyone else in our lives and in the world. Different people have different journeys for different reasons. You can’t judge, but you can celebrate that there are connections everywhere”. – Jane Seymour

3 lives interwoven on the street

This happened to me the other day. In my ‘movie’ I was on my way home to grab something to eat to then leave again an hour later to go attend a seminar on ‘being in the now’. So I thought the movie would play out, but life wanted a different scenario. A few meters from my home I got out of the bus, just as a man walking his dog passes on the sidewalk. I walk right behind him as he passes a woman walking her dog, walking towards us. Just as they pass each other, the dogs in true dog nature greets each other, and the woman trips over the dog-leash and falls. She moans in pain but doesn’t get up. I literally walk right into this scene, and stop to help the guy get the woman on her feet. We ask if she is okay. She doesn’t seem okay. She is hurting and has some superficial but bloody scratches on her knee and arm, and it turns out she is extremely drunk and in great emotional pain. She starts crying hysterically, her words are blurry and hard to understand. I try to find out where she was going, but the only phrase she keeps saying is ‘I can’t anymore’. She is saying to us that she doesn’t wish to live anymore. The man with the dog says he must leave because of the dog. In the few seconds this all took place a young man was biking by and he stops to give me a hand with giving the woman a hand. She cries deep from her heart, drunk and confused. Hence, this begins a whole new story of our three lives suddenly being interwoven for a moment – for two and half hours to be exact – and in the most heartbreaking and heartwarming way, we all learned something that day, when our movie played an unexpected but deeply human scene.

Sometimes we need a real hug

We manage to calm her down a little. Then suddenly, she hugs me. I think we all know the difference between a polite hug and a real hug, holding someone. First I was hugging politely, but she held tighter and when I gave in and just really hugged her, she started to cry again, completely, like a little child. There we were on the street in a long hug, two strangers – human to human. We then cross the street to where the guy turns out to live, and his roommate comes down with some plaster and water, so we can clean up the bruises. After we walked the woman home, phoned social helpers, involved a neighbor and it became evident that this was not a new scene in the woman’s life. We called the only friend she could come up with to contact, and reached a window cleaner who didn’t know her but he knew someone who might know her. It seemed unlikely he would show up. There was no one else to call.

Her apartment was full of photos portraying a prior seemingly happy life with children and health; the pictures looked like a completely other woman and we couldn’t help by wonder, at what point and due to which circumstances her life started to change for the worse. She had the sweetest, calm and warm dog, and it was very visible that they had a close, loving relation. Thank God for the unconditional love a dog can show, you could tell the difference it made. Every time she spoke about her dog, she would light up.

Truly seeing each other

She talked about how she was too damaged to have any hope, life was too rough to ever be made better, and it felt like that our words of support, hope and encouragement were of little use. Then I talked about her dog, and that made her listen. I think it is because, at this movement, it was the one clean, clear and true aspect in her life connected directly to her heart and she knew without any doubt the love and good they two share. Perhaps the only place right now, where she felt sure she could see any good. So I told her, that I didn’t know her, but I knew for a fact, that for a dog to be so calm, lovely and warm, it must mean that she too had those qualities. I had no doubt she was that woman too, inside. Hence, there was hope. There is always hope. She was a woman of great faith, so she was holding the bible in her arms as we spoke, but she had lost faith in herself and the good in the world.

”If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other”

— Mother Teresa

Just before we left, there was a moment, which made the biggest impact on me. She looked me deep in the eyes for a long while, and when you really allow for true eye contact, there comes a point where you feel a deep connection; you feel and see the soul in the other. In all silence, holding her hand, that happened between us and I felt the shift within me, like sudden inner goose bumps, and in that exact moment she started crying again. In tears she said to me ‘you are really beautiful’, deeply touched with wet eyes I said back ‘you are really beautiful too’ – after some silence I continued ‘and the fact that you can see it in me, means you have it in you too’. We were all moved by this moment. The young guy then did something very grand, something which I couldn’t do, which also touched me greatly – he gave the woman his address and said, she was always welcome.

 

There are no givers and takers in the interconnected whole

I am writing this story, simply because it deeply affected me and it got me thinking about the interconnectedness of us all. As the young guy and I left her place, we were in a strange sate of mind. We were sad, really sad, to see a human being in so much despair and sad to acknowledge, all the other sad stories connected to her life, that we didn’t know about. There was no doubt, that she has had many difficult experiences in her life and that she too has hurt many people around her. We were frustrated by the fact, that it seemed like a stuck situation, as we got the impression that this circle of events has been going on for years. We were frustrated that there was no one to call and it seemed like the system had given up on her, and mostly we were frustrated, or rather sad, that she had given up on her self. We were also uplifted by the mere experience of being of service to someone, of giving a fellow citizen a hand. It felt deeply meaningful to give her some genuine attention, rather than running off to a spiritual event or what ever we had planned that night. We also felt guilty for leaving her. We were wondering where our responsibilities end and begin. And mostly, we somehow felt deeply humble. We were quiet, reflective and humble as we walked home. We realized, that she – and the experience – had taught us a lot. It actually felt wrong inside to say, that ‘we had helped her’, because in some way the feeling was, that she had helped us too. That is not just cliché words; it is really how we felt.

So that got me thinking about how all these stories and scenes in life are completely interwoven in the most intelligent, incomprehensible way. It is magic beyond what we can ever understand with our minds. And when we are in the flow of the river of life, life then guides us from scene to scene where we need to be. In this flow, there is no giving or taking – no helper or receiver – we are all at the same time, because it is way above that, and it is strange simplicity it is much more complex and intelligent than we think.

The young guy and I hugged goodbye; we had shared a meaningful and lesson-full story that evening, and as humans, we felt much closer and deeply related because of it. We felt interconnected, and we prayed for the woman’s wellbeing. We saw her true beauty behind the messy surface, and we prayed that she even for just a glimpse of a moment saw it too, reflected in some strangers’ eyes. Human to human, soul to soul.

——————————————————————–

In his work The Ethical Demand (1956) the Danish philosopher K.E. Løgstrup writes:

A person never has something to do with another person without also having some degree of control over him or her. It may be a very small matter, involving only a passing mood, a dampening or quickening of spirit, a deepening or removal of some dislike. But it may also be a matter of tremendous scope, such as can determine if the life of the other flourishes or not.

—————————————————————–

Sometimes – often actually – life presents us with an opportunity to be kind to others.

“Consciously or unconsciously, every one of us does render some service or other. If we cultivate the habit of doing this service deliberately, our desire for service will steadily grow stronger and we will make not only our own happiness, but that of the world at large. ” — Mahatma Gandhi

”I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.”  — William Penn

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