I recently came across this letter I wrote many years ago and think this is a good time to share it.
Dear Kind Soul,
It was a striking, sunny, spring Sunday afternoon. The air was crisp and dry. A light wind was softly brushing by the sea of people milling about on the steps of the Metropolitan museum. There was a sense of burgeoning joy and wonderment, as if we were all experiencing life for the first time. As I stood at the top of the stairs waiting to meet my girlfriend Marlene, a rush of alertness coursed through my being. I could feel each sense of my body come to attention; the fresh, sweet smell of budding trees and flowers; the gentle caress of the ever so perceptible wind against my body; the bright, radiating sunlight illuminating everything it touched, beckoning its inner beauty to manifest; the cacophony of conversations, children’s gleeful cries, cars passing, trees rustling, all entered my ears in symphonic concert. I tasted its entirety.
Standing there at the top of the stairs, drinking it in, swimming in the ocean of creation, the dance of vitality, of life, of love- my soul soared. I began to scan my surrounding with this fresh lens, perceiving details I don’t generally notice; the young man sitting on the steps reading a book; a mother caring for her child; a group of tourists engaged in an animated discussion; an older couple walking up the stairs holding hands. As I glanced to my right, toward the entrance of the museum, I suddenly saw you.
You were there all along, but I didn’t really see you. You were holding a large black broom in your hands, sweeping the floor. My eyes rested on you, watching your intent movements, I could feel the total focus and care present in your being. There was a sense of sacred devotion in your actions. You were not merely sweeping the floor; you seemed to be serving God.
I looked around me to see if anyone else noticed your sanctified work. Regretfully, not only did no one seem to perceive what you were doing, worse yet, like me moments ago, no one seemed to even see you. At that moment, I realized how invisible people in your vocation may feel. My heart filled with gratitude as I identified with the many people out there who are doing their work, serving us day in and out, receiving little or no recognition or acknowledgment. I got in touch with the cycle of life and the obscured interdependence existing between human beings- obscured only because we do not stop long enough to behold the depths of our interconnection. Habituating to our environment, we take for granted all the individuals involved in making our lives easier. I started thinking of all the people involved in bringing just one item, like milk or a blouse into my life – all the hands that touched this item, from the clerk at the store, to the truck driver who delivered it to the store, to the person who packaged it to load it on the truck, and on and on. Each person is contributing to my life, our lives, but we are too busy, or caught up with what is in front of us to truly appreciate how we much we depend on each other.
Profoundly moved, I walked over to you and said hello. Your gaze shifted from the floor to me. You broke into a huge smile as you returned my greeting. We made some small talk about the weather and how wonderful it was to be outside after a long, cold winter. I acknowledged you for your service to us all, noting the care you were putting into it. You exuded light, proudly telling me that this was your work and you were happy to serve. You asked me if I was coming into or leaving the museum. I said I was waiting for a friend to arrive before I went inside. At that moment, Marlene arrived. Your warm, glowing smile greeted her as it did me. After a brief conversation with her, we were about to bid you farewell. Putting your broom down, you asked us if we would wait a minute. You returned with two tickets to the museum in your outstretched hand. I was speechless. Already taken back by your spirit, I was overwhelmed by your generosity. At that moment I knew that we had touched each other in some unspeakable way. We shook hands warmly; wished each other a wonderful day, and as Marlene and I walked into the museum, you picked up your broom and continued to sweep in that way that filled my heart.
This was no ordinary encounter with a stranger. On some level, in the deepest part of our being, you and I shared an intimate moment filled with genuine connection and love. Thank you for reminding me of this bond that is available to me, to us, whenever we reach out to acknowledge that we are all here together, being and living our lives.
Your kindred spirit,