In the early morning, when the weather is nice, I frequently find myself on our balcony
watching the river flow, the birds fly, boats "boating," and people walking by. Over time I
start to notice, like clockwork, just before 8 am, a man on a bicycle with his tiny
helmeted baby strapped to a seat straddling the frame in front of him. He zips by
at fairly high speed, turns the corner, and then heads north on the path by the East River.
The baby always looks like it is having fun. I think the man is enjoying it, too. I realize that
I begin to miss them if they don't show up and am happy when they do. It starts me
thinking about journeys.
Rivercross Lawn on a sunny afternoon. Photo by Stephen Quandt
We all have goals. Education, career, marriage, children, hobbies, recreation, even
surviving to the next day, and they are specific and personal to each of us. But do we
really know where we're going? Do we know where the baby will end up? Or the man?
Is it even important?
There is a different type of journey that is measurable and real but isn't from goal to goal
or place to place. The journey that is measured by our kindness and compassion
towards others. Yesterday was very hot and I was in a subway station coming home,
when I saw an overheated subway worker in distress, being fanned by a co-worker. A
man came up and first offered his water bottle, and then a chemical cold pack that he
had in his daypack. The workers, both of them, were so incredibly grateful. They
each introduced themselves to the man by name. It occurred to me that people were probably rarely kind to them.
I work with animals, and my perspective on life is deeply affected by them. We rarely
know what they're thinking but we can see our effect on them. There is a cat in my
building that I care for, administering fluids through an IV every other day. Months ago,
when I started doing these treatments the cat, whose name is Mouse (scared like a
mouse), was terrified of me, hiding in unreachable places and would run at the site of
me, and then only give in when captured. I was as gentle and kind as one can be when
sticking a big needle into the neck of another creature.
In time, Mouse stopped running from me but would still hide, and I would have to gently pull her out. Then she would complain about the needle with a chirp, sometimes even before it went in. But as more time passed, our relationship grew, and it has reached the point now where I don't have to pull her out; I just call her, and she walks out from her spot. During the treatments,
she now rubs my free hand for petting or eats treats while getting the fluids. No chirping
complaints. I would say to her owner, "Mouse really likes me now," and the owner would
reply, "Yes, but she's also a different cat then she was before." And I'm a different
person. Being kind makes one kinder.
Almost a year after "journeying" on Island, I still reflect on the gift it has been to live here.
That this Island has changed my perspective of life and living and giving. Acts of
kindness, and compassion change all of us for the better. Do you want to feel great
today? Do something kind for someone. Make it a part of your journey. Make it, the
journey. The journey of giving.