In New York City we're very used to seeing people living on the street. We're a little too used to it.
Today I walked past the same homeless man on the sidewalk twice (once on my way to the gym and once on my way home). He was hunched forward as he gestured around with his hand as if talking to someone, very dazed and lethargic. He was in that in-between place that's hard to figure out--he might have been feverish or drunk or mentally ill but without interacting with him directly it was impossible to judge.
He helped me realize today that the more thinking I do, the less helpful I am. On a good day I'll see someone who appears to need some kind of assistance and simply respond in the best possible way, without plotting or thinking or second guessing myself.
Today I looked at this man and considered the possibility that I might catch some sort of skin disease by helping him. I wondered if anyone I knew would see me and think I was trying to be some in-your-face show-off do-gooder, or even worse, think I wasn't being a "real New Yorker" by not rushing by like everyone else was.
I thought about so much while this guy may have just needed a quarter or a sandwich or some serious medical attention.
This is all assuming he wanted or even needed my help. For all I know he might have been having a better day than I was. And my fantasies about coming to his aid may have been nothing more than the rumblings of my hungry ego.
We really aren't served very well and we certainly don't serve others very well when we rely on our thoughts alone. We're so disconnected from our hearts and our fundamental wisdom by the haze of thinking that seeps into every aspect of our daily experience that we miss opportunities to be present for ourselves and each other.
My teacher Sunim reminded me last night how important it is to incorporate our practice into our everyday life, no matter how busy or crazy or challenging our lives may be. May we all find a way to do that and serve those who need us.