APRIL 30, 2016
Fleeting moments that change us
“You are my
sister,” he said to me, his eyes brimming with sincerity. This, from a
shopkeeper I had met a mere 2 hours before, surrounded by stacks of
shawls and scarves of various make. That was in Kathmandu in 2008, when I
took to the Himalayas alone for a self-seeking and self-healing
pilgrimage. I thought it was his way of thanking me for supporting his
business. But as I prepared to leave, he asked if I would like to have
tea together, right there seated on floor cushions. I have always been
wary of strangers while travelling, especially in Nepal alone, but it
felt natural to say yes, and as time paused, we talked. About life, his
about herding goats in northern India (for those pashminas) and how
hopeful he was about the new-found peace in Nepal after a decade of
civil war. That moment has stayed with me, this instant connection with
someone whom I knew I would never meet again. Through the years I would
sometimes find myself thinking about my Indian-Nepali brother, hoping
he continued to do well in life.
This month last
year, devastating earthquakes hit Nepal, including the Kathmandu region.
With the population seeking shelter in tents for fear of their lives, I
tried to scour photos for a sign of my brother, wondering if he made it
out alive. Could I even recognize his face? One year later, Kathmandu
still waits to be rebuilt. I write this in tribute to the Kathmandu that
greeted me with kindness, gentleness, and safety. And to my brother who
gave me the experience of connecting authentically, for the first time
in my life, with a ‘stranger’. In that fleeting moment he helped me
understand that we are all connected with each other, more than we
realize or admit, through our shared human experience and our common
hopes, dreams, joys, trepidations. Why can we not express more
compassion to each other? Do we not need it ourselves?
So how about
this challenge? How comfortable are you with acknowledging someone you
don’t know, taking the risk perhaps of striking a conversation, no
matter how tepid the topic, not knowing how that person might respond?
Or something a bit safer, perhaps nodding at someone in a simple
affirmation of their presence around you. Never mind what they might
think. Simply observe what that feels like for you. That’s what we can
do for a start, not wait for other people to start improving the world,
hoping they will make things better, kinder, gentler. Let’s make that change, starting with ourselves. Give it a chance. You never know how positively and profoundly you can touch someone’s life.
©2016 Copyright Margie Santos