9 Jul
2019
Posted in: Books, Practice
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If We Pay Attention

Now that I’m back home, I’ve starting writing again in my “Goodwill” journal where, since this is my Year of Getting to Know Goodwill, I make note of whatever acts of kindness, friendliness, generosity, etc. that I notice during the day — whether done for me, or by me, or between other people.)

So in that spirit, for today’s post I offer this entry from The Book of Delights, by Ross Gay:

“Something I’ve noticed riding on Amtrak trains, like the one I’m on right now between Syracuse and Manhattan, is that people leave their bags unattended for extended periods of time. Maybe they go to the end of the car to use the bathroom, or sometimes they go to the far end of the train to the cafe, which smells vomity like microwave cheese. My neighbor on this train — across the aisle and one row up — disappeared for a good twenty minutes, her bag wide open, a computer peeking out, not that I was checking. She is not unusual in this flaunting of security, otherwise know as trust, on the train. Nearly everyone participates in this practice of trust, and without recruiting a neighbor across the aisle to ‘keep an eye on my stuff while I use the restroom,’ which seems to be a coffee shop phenomenon. Trusting one’s coffee shop neighbor, but not the people in line, et cetera.

“I suppose, given the snugness of a train, especially if it’s full, one might speculate there’s a kind of eyes-on-the-street-ness at play, although it seemed to me, this morning, when I was first leaving my valuables on my seat for pilfering, my laptop and cellphone glittering atop my sweatshirt and scarf, most everyone was sleeping and so provided little if any eyewitness deterrent.

“I suppose I could spend time theorizing how it is that people are not bad to each other, but that’s really not the point. The point is that in almost every instance of our lives, our social lives, we are, if we pay attention, in the midst of an almost constant, if subtle, care taking. Holding open doors. Offering elbows at crosswalks. Letting someone else go first. Helping with the heavy bags. Reaching what’s too high, or what’s been dropped. Pulling someone back to their feet. Stopping at the car wreck, at the struck dog. The alternating merge, also known as the zipper. This care taking is our default mode and it’s always a lie that convinces us to act or believe otherwise. Always.”

***

He’s right. It’s become clear to me — now that I’m paying attention — that we are all swimming in a sea of goodwill.

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