What we Carry
The other night at work after a meeting, there was a bunch of leftover pizza. After everyone left, there were still a few pieces wrapped up. At first, I thought I'd treat myself and have a slice on my way home, but after walking out the door I decided I really wasn't hungry. I had just had a big dinner, and it was already after 9pm... so best to just head home. My first thought was to leave the wrapped up piece of pizza on top of one of the trash cans on the way to the MUNI stop... but was walking with a friend and our conversation distracted me. I thought about that piece of pizza in my bag a few minutes later while underground waiting for the train.
Then it was time to make my connection. I leave the underground station and transfer to a bus which takes me home. It has started to mist outside, and it's chilly and the bus takes a while to arrive. When I finally do get on the bus, I find a seat near the back. Public transportation is full of all kinds of folks, especially in San Francisco. The different people, languages, and mental states are fascinating. Sitting next to me are two guys who are talking about traveling out of state on the company's dime, and about how the skate parks in Chicago are really awesome. Someone near the front of the bus is playing reggae music on their phone. Two elderly Chinese ladies laugh and talk a few rows up. Across from me, there's an African American woman, probably in her 60s, and when I looked at her she smiled at me. I smiled back as the bus reached its next stop. This time, most of the people leave the bus, and as we pulled away, she stood up and stepped towards the door, as if she was about to leave as well... but then turned around and returned to her seat. She looked at the floor and noticed a sucker, still wrapped in its plastic. Moving around, she reached for the floor as the bus climbed another steep hill, and she held the red treat up and examined it. As I watch her I realize she was going to eat it.
Then I remember what I'm carrying. I ask her, "would you like a piece of pizza?" She nods yes and looks at me hopefully (but with a bit of reservation since I don't actually have a "to go" box with me!) I get the piece of pizza out of my bag and hand it to her. She takes it, says "thank you... I guess you could tell I was hungry!"
As she eats, I talk with her a little about the availability of food and shelter services in the city, and ask if she knows about them. "You can't get food after 6pm" she tells me. "I'm too late".
Then she says "This is the only food I have eaten today." We talked a little more and she shared a bit about her life. She's alone in this city. When I reached my stop, it was time for me to leave. The only thing I could think to say to her was something my grandmother always told me: "Tomorrow is a brand new day." - If she can make it through tonight, there's a new start with the sunrise.
What did I have to offer her? A slice of pizza and a few kind words... nothing to keep her warm for the night, or fed tomorrow.
What did I learn from this? Heading home, walking up the big hill to my street (the rain just starting to turn from mist to sprinkling) I realized that when we head into the world, we bring with us "baggage" -- feelings, emotions, fears or excitement about something that's happening... and those things we carry with us are the tools and gifts we have to share with others.
In a good mood? Notice how that good mood spreads to others around you? Imagine the impact it has on people you don't even notice.
In a bad mood? Notice how that bad mood sometimes resonates and can affect those around you. Imagine the impact it has that you don't even notice.
Have a little extra (like that piece of pizza I carried on my way home)? See the good that comes from observing your surroundings and giving when you can. Imagine the impact it has on everyone (including you!)
Here's to brand new days.