I have a short walk to work, partially along a busy main road. If I get my timing right (early enough, or simply between train arrivals/departures), the pavement isn’t too crowded and I can find my own pace. I decide whether to hustle and rush into my working day, or whether to slow down and let my usual whirling impatience wait up a bit.
Today was not a day for dawdling, since the pavement was pretty thronged, with people jostling and overtaking in their rush to get on and start their working days. I’m trying to be more mindful and present in my walk to work these days (and trying harder not to view this as a woeful substitute for asana practice!), but I am also very liable to simply drift into thoughts and daydreaming — as I am in any meditation practice. So today I became totally immersed in my own trivial — but nonetheless totally compelling — quotidian concerns and so I walked on past a girl standing at the corner with a map print-out in her hand.
I usually make a point of stopping to talk to anyone who’s obviously lost, whether they ask for help or not. I know from experience that the kindness of strangers can make or break your day, and I find something pleasing in the notion that I can literally point someone in the right direction (there’s a metaphor there if you choose to look…). But I’m saddened to say that I walked on past this girl. The pavement was too crowded with fast-moving pedestrians for me to make a sudden stop without getting in the way. That’s my excuse. But really I was just too caught up in my own small-world preoccupations that I didn’t have the space or inclination to reach out to her.
But that’s the point isn’t it? She too was crowded in, not just by the jostling pedestrians but no doubt also by her own concerns about reaching her destination on time and whatever she had to do once she was there (exam, interview, training course…). And if I’d reached out and connected with her for a brief moment, her day might have been better in some small way.
And — if this story were all about me (which it isn’t!) — I wouldn’t be left feeling selfish and regretful.
Girl with the map, I’m sorry.