In these days of endless discussions around what is an "essential service" and what isn't, I thought I'd write a bit about an experience that has been amplified for me since COVID: connection. I've been experiencing less separation and deeper connection in my relationship with myself, others, and Spirit, amidst the intense restrictions on being physically separate. The experience of connection lately feels like a divine combination of courage and vulnerability with a good dose of humility. Ah yes, humility is what I feel our entire world is being called to at a whole new level.
An example from this morning: I went to Walgreens to get some "essentials." Pulling into the parking lot, I noticed a large tent set up on the sidewalk, one I hadn't seen before. This always pulls at my heart strings. So much homelessness! Why can't we have more structures in place, more funding, better thinking around this issue so that it decreases, not increases? Just a few of the thoughts cycling through my head, as I walk into the store. The woman at the check-out is wearing a mask, as am I. With the large plastic barrier in front of the register and wearing the mask, I can feel the usual "wall" between us, as I stand and wait for the transaction. Then I look into her eyes and ask how her day is going, feeling the pull to connect with her. She shares about her mom riding the bus, with a cough that is from allergies, but those around her are anxious that she might have COVID. We both marvel at how different the world is now, how challenging it can be. The connection is brief but authentic, as we see each other and our common humanity amidst the COVID Craze.
As I'm leaving, I see a homeless man sitting outside. I imagine he lives in the tent I saw earlier. There are always homeless people at this Walgreen's, every time I come. Sometimes I stop, but usually I don't. "I donate to our church, which runs a shelter in the church basement, and that's plenty for now. I can't do everything!" This repetitive thought surfaces again about how I comfortably give to those in need each month. It's also one of the ways that I separate myself from being with the pain of humanity. I don't have to see their pain, their need, I can just send a check (this could branch into a longer commentary about upper-middle class white privilege, but I'll save that for another day). Once again, I felt pulled to connect, so I stop and looked into his eyes as he asks me for money. "Sure," I said, "I don't have much cash, since most places aren't taking cash these days, but I'll give you what I have. (I pulled out a dollar and some change). They do take cash here, so I hope you can get something with this little amount."
He thanked me, and I thanked him. "Thank you" just popped out of my mouth. I got into the car and started to cry. Such a simple, genuine interaction that I felt so deeply. I was humbled by this moment, overwhelmed by compassion. This can sound very patronizing, I realize, but in the moment, it was the opposite. There was an allowing of the connection to be there, raw and painful, real and present, without pretense or story. Person to person. So who is giving to whom in this moment? Is there a difference between us?
How often has fear kept me from connecting with others, with myself, my family, my community. and world? Fear of what? Fear of seeing this deeply, feeling this pain, of being this transparent, and being present to what is in this moment, no matter what is showing up. For me, these roots of fear go back to childhood trauma, which I've been healing through my entire life. We each have our own trauma, yes, and the layers keep unraveling, even after all these years. Old patterns limit us in ways we might not even recognize, until an experience brings them forward to be seen. But the deepest pain that each of us carries is that of being separate from one another, staying in the limited understanding that we are only this person, this mind, this body. Truth tells us that we are One, and when we follow the pull to connect in small or large ways, we will be led to this experience of Oneness. One without a second.
Rumi says, "There is a sun within every person."
Every person. Not just most people, or white people, or rich people, or those that strive to know Spirit. Every person. This is the sun of compassion, of love that binds us together. And when we follow this pull to connect, we are bringing ourselves closer to home, closer to Spirit that has created the trauma, and the wounds, and all the beautiful moment/s where we can heal from the wounds. What a miraculous gift from Spirit. With humility and grace, we can move from these moments into a deeper experience of Oneness, and from here we can truly serve humanity, whether we have a dollar to give, a check to write, or a moment to look into someone's eyes and see who they truly are...the same as us.