Henry David Thoreau said the kindest thing a human being can do is to allow another human being to help them. Maybe not in those words exactly, but that was his point – be kind….let somebody help.
Those don’t-drink-one-day-at-a-time people have, I’m told, a saying which says this – “You’ve got to give it away to keep it.” Yes, not a twin to what Thoreau said, but no less than a second cousin. You get back when you give.
This is not karma discussed here, I think far beyond the reaches of karma, and likewise removed from the what goes around comes around thing. More like a neighbor down the street.
Thoreau’s words ring the most clear, and they shimmer with goodness, and human possibility and potential – to be humane. The species which thinks. The phylum – if I have that right – which makes choices. Say “Yes” when someone offers help and you have bestowed a special kindness to the offerer.
I’ve been thinking about what Thoreau said because I’ve been in a position this last little less than a month to be the recipient of one offer and act of kindness after another. It’s been a bit mind-blowing for me, and the truth is my first inclination with a few of the offers was to slow down, tap the brakes, and say why don’t we think about that. And in those moments I have forgotten that to be kind is to say Yes.
Someone I’ve met on Zoom, a guy in San Diego, called me while I was walking Saturday morning, he was checking in on me, how you doing? and all that caring, and I mentioned a couple of these offers and he said it was a duty – in this case my duty – to say Yes, that to do otherwise would diminish the experience of giving for the other. And when he said that it resonated as exactly right because I know it’s right and my hesitancy to accept the kind offer has something to do with a “not deserving” piece of baggage. Which leans into not good enough (or maybe bad-off enough) and now ‘damaged’ (but not as damaged as that guy under the bridge), and, I guess, something of a self-esteem thing.
On another walk last week, one night, talking with my friend Gavin in Oakland on the phone – he who I called the day I heard the word “divorce” and the one who has called every day since then to – in fact – hold me up and pretty much save my ass. Talk about kindness. Talk about giving. And on that call on my night walk last week I told him that someone had messaged me and told me some people from my old high school days were talking – about me – and decided they wanted to set up a “Go Fund Me” account for me. And my right away action was basically “Nah”, there’s people so much more deserving, and in need, and Gavin said something like, “Dude, they established that fund for people exactly like you – lost a spouse, lost a home, selling your important things for rent money, technically homeless in a few weeks. Why not say Yes?”
I did end up saying Yes, and more recently continuing to say Yes to other seemingly over-the-top offers of support, some of those Yes answers moving past the initial “Oh come on” to the understanding that through this sadness and fear, and through all the amazements and the worries and the dreams of some new path, crazy, day-dreamy things, somewhere walking along this new path I remembered what I’d read so long ago. Maybe in “Walden”. Maybe something else he wrote.
The kindest thing I can do – now, these days – is say yes and let somebody help me who’s offering to help me.
And, I think, to feel worth it too. I think that’s part of this path.