This weekend I took a walk down to my local shopping centre for the weekly groceries.
I had prepared a shopping list and mapped out a logical route that would allow me to make all of my purchases efficiently.
My usual shopping survival strategy is to keep my head down and just walk quickly. As I got off the escalator and turned left I noticed an elderly woman standing to the side. I only looked at her for a second but it was clear to me that she was upset.
I walked a little further past her then just came to a stop. I ran through the possible problems that she might have in her life and how I might be able to help. She might have lost her daughter in the shops, or be going through a rough patch with life or work. Maybe I could help.
As I approached her, I started to perceive the situation more clearly. Her hair and clothes were dirty & she had a terrible smell. Facial hair almost on par with mine. Torn shoes.
I greeted her with a subdued smile and started a conversation. A rough life indeed; husband died, kids gone, no job, living on the streets. Her pale blue eyes were filled with such sadness. I can’t recall the last time I saw hopelessness like that. I walked her down to the coffee shop and gave her some money for lunch.
I wonder how many other people walked past her that day and didn’t notice. Or did notice, and rationalized her sadness away with mental commentary such as “she’ll be alright”. I think about the many things I miss out on perceiving each day because my attention is elsewhere.
Where you put your attention is a choice. But this choice places limits on your experience. These limits are essential for sanity, but left to solidify, they can harden our ego until the only concern we have is for ourselves. What a wasteful way to live. Open your eyes and look around.