Be Mindful, Be a Mensch

nyc bus_sDo you spend a little too much time ruminating on the past? Or are you more likely to be worrying, planning for the future? It turns out we humans tend to fall into one camp or the other.

One of the goals of spiritual practice is to get better at spending more time in the third circle, THIS MOMENT, regardless how comfortable or uncomfortable it is. One obvious benefit is we feel more awake and alive. The other is that we able to recognize the opportunity for endless small acts of service that show up each day – and act on them.

My longtime Jewish friend, Belle, seems always alert to what is happening in this moment, evidenced by her wonderful story that follows. May we all be a little more awake today.

“It’s 95 degrees and humid, and the subway is delayed, so I get on the Riverside Drive bus to go uptown. It’s mobbed. People are squeezing in everywhere.

“When someone gets off, I sit down just to get out of the way. An elderly African-American woman gets on, and I get up. She hesitates. She looks at me — to see how old I am, I imagine. She asks me if I am really sure. Only then does she sit down.

“We talk about the heat. She says she decided it was too hot to sit outside for the Lincoln Center concert, and I agree. Suddenly she says, ‘At least let me hold your bag.’ I pass my oversized NYC handbag onto her lap.

“Just as we near my stop and I tell her I’m about to get off, she says, ‘Thank you! You’ve really done a mitzvah!’ I smile and think — and finally say — ‘Do you say that often?’ because it seems more bus-friendly than asking her why she used a Yiddish word.

“She smiles and pauses and says that she has always liked the concept of mitzvah. Then she explains, more softly, that she worked in a facility that helped a lot of Russian Jews — and that she herself did a mitzvah today by helping someone who had tripped on the sidewalk get over to Urgent Care. I told her it was karma.

“I got off the bus very happy. I love New York!”

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