A Quiet Storm

Posted By Brie Austin In Category: In Search Of , Opinion

“Do not avoid contact with suffering or close your eyes before suffering. Do not lose awareness of the existence of suffering in the life of the world. Find a way to be with those who are suffering by all means, including personal contact and visits, images, sounds. By such means awaken yourself and others to the reality of suffering in the world”. (Precept #4 Buddha’s 14 precepts for Inner Peace)

I sat and thought about those words tonight. Especially here in New York it is commonplace to turn a blind eye to those that are suffering. And as you do, you feel a little twinge in your gut because your soul knows its wrong. But people are less willing to help sometimes, because there are so many con artists here in the city. They dress up as homeless, put your kindness in their pocket and then at the end of the day return to their home in the suburbs.

Yet, there is suffering all around us, in every town and city. Like a quiet storm in the distance we can feel the moisture in the air, and hear the crackle of the thunder. unwilling to pay attention unless it raining directly on us.

Last month I was walking home from the movie theater and noticed a few people sleeping in an alcove of a building. It was bitter cold that night; January in New York City. By the time I arrived home I had all but forgot about it. However, I had that precept of Buddha fresh in my mind and it jump-started my humanity, began to tug at my heart, and I just couldn’t turn away.

So I gathered a few sweatshirts, returned to the spot and handed them out. A few days later I returned with a large bag of clothes: I felt like Santa Clause. It contained blue jeans, sweatshirts, turtlenecks, flannels, and heavy socks. The couple sleeping in a doorway woke, somewhat startled, and said thank you.  Anything they couldn’t use they said they would pass on. I pulled a few things out to show the gentleman what the bag contained. I offered him a beige-colored turtleneck shirt, when he asked “do you have anything in a dark color?

I was taken back with a smile, and assured him there were dark shirts, but that he could utilize the light-colored ones under the dark ones.  He liked that idea.

A friend of mine, recovering from drug and alcohol abuse, has been clean & sober for over a year. Today I got a call, as I do almost every day. “I had such a great day at my group meeting. There were these two girls who were messed up more than me. One girl said that after the last meeting she almost gave in to her drug desires. But that it was my efforts to talk to her last week that helped her resist the urge.”

My friend carried that girls’ burden that day, if just for a few moments, by caring and taking an interest. And a few minutes was all it took to make a difference in someone else’s life.

Why should it be so hard for us to help each other? Deep down we feel it, if we don’t turn it off and turn away. Whether anyone wants to admit it or not we are all connected. And if one suffers, the “whole” suffers. It is hard to drown out the sounds of crying.

The beautiful thing about kindness is that you can give it freely with no expectation of anything in return. And when you do that, you actually get something in return — the giving IS the reward.  Try it and you will be surprised at how you feel. But the trick is, not to expect anything.

Those in need don’t always require clothing, sometimes just a little respect and dignity.

Across from my apartment there was a fellow sitting on the sidewalk with his “stuff,” and you knew he was homeless. As I walked by on my way to get a coffee, he was yelling at everyone who walked by. On my way back I stopped and quietly asked him “why are you yelling at these people?” He responded with such anger, telling me that they were all to blame for his plight. He couldn’t get a job, the immigrants were taking all the jobs.

In mid sentence I pulled out a bagel with cream cheese and a cup of coffee an placed it down for him while I listened to him rage on.  I had bought it for him while I was getting my own. He sat there stunned, nothing to say. In one instant he became a person. He was always a person, but I think in the midst of his screams he might have forgotten. Maybe he was screaming less about the job, and more to the fact that nobody would acknowledge he was even there.  He was a person, down on his luck perhaps, but a person all the same. Still, everybody just continued to walk by, turning a deaf ear to his cries. A simple thing like a bagel and coffee made a desperate man smile. For just a moment, he was reminded, that he was a person.

As you go through your days, notice the people around you, connect with them. Our life is short and it is not what we have that matters, but how we live our lives. Sometimes its what we “didn’t” do that matters. If you don’t know what to say, try this, “I don’t know what to say – but, what can I do to help”. Sometimes the interest alone resolves the problem.

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About Brie Austin

Co-author of I'd Do It Again, he is a columnist/reporter for a variety of magazines in the areas of music, lifestyle, nightlife, travel and business. He also writes business documents and creates copy for websites.

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