Sitting outdoors in late October, Joe and I were enjoying our coffee when a man approached asking for money. Joe turned to him and politely said No. All the while I was looking at Joe, taking my cue from him. Right afterwards he said, “I knew you wanted to say Yes.”
Such a tiny incident. The man asking for money soon got what he wanted at a nearby table. I (barely) resisted jumping to his rescue, my vow to “save all sentient beings” notwithstanding. An ancient story speaks to this:
Student asks teacher: “What can I do to help all the suffering beings in this world?”
Teacher replies: “Indeed, what can you do?”
The wisdom of self-care demands that if we want to look after the welfare of others, we need to consider our own as well. For much of my life I’ve found it difficult to mark and guard my boundaries. Being poorly defined and frequently violated during childhood, they didn’t develop ’til late into adulthood. People could easily walk over me — and still do, just less frequently. Someone observed that if you want to change the world, start with myself. Thus I bow to both Joe and the man who asked for a handout: both were my teachers today.
image: source unknown