A friend of mine saw a man lying on the cold sidewalk in Seattle, without even a blanket. She gave him one, bought two mocha’s and muffins and sat with him for a few minutes, eating and talking. She wondered about all the people who were ignoring him. She hoped it didn’t mean too much.
Cognitive dissonance hurts
We often naturally invent that people deserve their circumstances. It’s one of many ways we avoid cognitive dissonance. Life is unfair. We don’t like thinking things are wrong, God’s wrong. We don’t like thinking “I should do something” outside of our planned budget and schedule- that feels wrong, too. We don’t like feeling guilt.
And there are so many millions (even billions!) of people hurting. We can’t empathize with them all, we think. We have to ignore almost all of them, most of the time. And in that effort to ignore, often we’re ignoring the pain as we walk down the street and pass someone lying down.
Kindness and connection
At times, almost all of us do acts of kindness. Our empathy gets the better of our inner fearful curmudgeon.
Some people seem to have an easier time connecting with love. Many of them have worked hard to tame the fears, insecurities and selfishness that separate us from love. Some of them simply keep putting in the effort.
The first challenge of life- reaching love
Perhaps that’s most of the work of the first part of life- mastering reaching out to love. Most of our parents try to teach us this, as do most religions and philosophies. But few parents have truly mastered the lessons. They teach as best they can.
I like to think I’ve mastered it. But it’s not true. I hope by now, nearing age 60, I’ve developed at least some mastery. Being committed to truth, I must admit that I, too, am merely a work in progress.
What’s next? Making a difference
Some people have told me they’re proud of me for my current efforts. It took a fair amount of courage to give up my job and work on PeopleCount full time. At the same time, I had to quell the fears of my wife and kids. Lots of people told me not to, to play it safe. Even my parents said that. But love won out.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. I did manage to put together a team for a short while. Then circumstances took away a key person. I didn’t quite have the skills to compensate. So I’m still trying. I’m trying to finish building the software, write the blog, connect with people and find funding. Probably I’m still making the same mistake- tackling too much at once…