Sometimes the simplest of acts can be the most instructive. We can surely appreciate the grand and dramatic gesture now and again, but for me, simple is best. And along with “simple” as a totally admirable descriptive quality, I would also add direct, skillful, clear, beneficial and absolutely appropriate.
As we rush about with our busy minds, we often pass over what is plainly obvious and right in front of us. Unless we are careful, we can become like inattentive, phone-obsessed teenagers who are oblivious to anything else that passes in front of them. We may also be blinded by inherited notions based on conventional thinking; we may not be able to see how we have been boxed into corners by thousands of years of conditioning and practiced habit.
Everyone reading this article knows very well where they were when they heard about or saw the horrific events occurring in New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001. The sight of airplanes flying into buildings and then those buildings disappearing into the ground was not anything that one would easily forget. People were completely transfixed by shock and did not know where to turn. There was no precedent for something like this, and no one had a script for how to respond.
One response was from people who immediately wanted revenge. There were shouts of, “Go bomb the bastards,” and “Kill all the rag heads.” Some version of the theme was heard over and over again, “We have been hurt, and now we need to hurt back.” People who looked “foreign” were singled out and threatened or even physically attacked on the streets.
But other people had a different response. For them the choice was not to lash out in hatred, but to ask themselves, “How do we deal with our own pain and the pain of others; what can be done to help those in need?” Some people actually got in their cars and drove up to New York to get right into the work of recovery.
I heard a wonderful story about a woman who, like everyone else, saw those images of airplanes flying into the twin towers and was shocked, and like so many people she wanted to do whatever she could to help. Now for her, New York was very, very far away and there were immediate obligations that needed to be dealt with in her own place, but still the movement was there to somehow offer help in this trying time.
So, what did she do? Well, she baked cookies. Yes, she baked cookies and then took them around to offer to people. Now, I suspect that it was much more than cookies that she was offering when she went around, as I should think that she wanted to find a way to comfort, reassure and console people who could certainly use a dose of that. I feel fairly certain that this notion to bake cookies for people arose quite spontaneously and without great planning, and it was done in an effortless and unpretentious way.
When I first heard this story, it just warmed my heart. Of course, it is not so much about the cookies--and I am a big fan of cookies, I might add!--but about the skillful means in time, place and circumstance. It need not be, as I said before, a grand gesture. Something simple and kind in a completely ordinary way can be the most helpful response.
I have found this example so instructive, and I am eager to find ways to put the same wisdom to work in my own life. What I do know for sure is that being a part of the solution sure beats being a part of the problem! That would mean, for instance, that if one is attacked or defamed in any way, the most helpful response is not to do the same in return. It is clear that Gandhi’s quote in this regard is so relevant. “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
It may even be that no response at all is the best response, but there is no rulebook for any of this. If we are truly relying on open intelligence, there is no predicting what the response will be. Everything is discovered spontaneously, and everything is ever new in each appearing here-and-now. I am so cheered and encouraged to look around me and see the kindness, benefit and graciousness that come from people doing just that. The world is so filled with negativity, selfish concern, close-mindedness and intolerance, but how beautifully these noble traits shine in contrast.
We are the ones who create the world we live in, and each and every moment provides us a choice as to how we will receive that moment. What joy it is for me to see the choices that more and more people are making to love one another into being. Yes, truly, there are a lot of cookies being baked out there.