Friday, November 30, 2007


This post is dedicated to Church Lady.

On Wednesday, when I did my remembrance post for Margaret Roberts, Church Lady commented, "Your spirit is particularly well-tuned today. What will you do?" The question threw me for a little bit of a loop. Old timers here at the Clarity of Night have probably gleaned an undercurrent about me that although I very much like to see the poetry and beauty in things, I tend to value logic and scientific thought highest of all. I also tend not to look for powers in the universe higher than us. I prefer to hold ourselves responsible for every element and every action that makes up the world.

I'm open-minded about "signs" and higher meaning in events, but I'm highly skeptical. For example, are particular people destined to suffer, or are they the product of their own choices? Are successful people blessed, or are they being rewarded for their positive decisions?

When Church Lady challenged me to direct my spiritual energy, I really couldn't come up with an adequate response. I simply promised to listen. Maybe it just took a extra day for fate to speak. Here's what happened.

I purposefully keep my professional identity and writing/creative identity separate, but this time I'll give you a glimpse. I represent a boarding school for disadvantaged children. After a meeting yesterday, I called a cab to take me back to my center city office. When I got into the backseat of the car, the driver asked me a few questions about the institution. As we drove around the loop to the front gate, I started to answer. A couple of blocks later, I realized these weren't casual questions.

Here was a man in great pain, a man who just happened to be called by the dispatcher to pick me up at the place that was eating away at him.

He passed pictures of his children back through the divider. He told me about how it broke his heart that the mother, who has primary custody, sent them away to live at this particular boarding school because she couldn't "handle them" anymore. He saw himself as a responsible man and father and was very hurt that not only were his children not living at home, but their admission to the school was partially based on lies about his lack of support as a parent. Because of these feelings, he resisted learning anything about the school. He viewed it as an adversary.

After he shared all this with me, he looked at me in the rearview mirror. He waited to see what I would say.

So I told him the truth.

I said I understood how he felt about the mother's personal struggles and about how he ached to see his children at a boarding school. But I also explained what an amazing opportunity it was. Public education in the city leaves much to be desired, and his children were receiving a nationally-recognized education that would make a tremendous difference in their lives. The excitement and dedication at that institution is truly remarkable.

Most importantly, I told him he would be welcome there.

All I did was call for a taxi. What I got was the privilege to lighten a man's burden. Now he can see a gift where he saw only insult and resentment.

At the end of the ride, he thanked me. I told him that even though he cringed at the call, it was a good thing he came to pick me up. He said there are no such things as coincidences. Szelsofa made that point also in comments, and Kaycie used those exact words.

Are these things merely coincidences? Maybe not.

Or maybe I simply chose to help someone when I could have wrapped myself in my own problems.

Either way, I'm happy to have played my part.


Kim said...

And well played it was, Jason. Bravo.

SzélsőFa said...

Sometimes we do little things we do not know the importance of. Sometime we cross the border between being ignorant and caring by little steps and thus help each other.
Sensible people do it more often.
Because they know of responsibility, even if they don't know of fate and higher power.

virtual nexus said...

Those of Christian persuasion would refer to them as Godincidences...

Vesper said...

Yes, somehow I don't think it was a coincidence. I'm not religious but I've had a few times the opportunity to think that things don't happen totally at random.
Great photo!

Bernita said...

I've always been struck by a Nero Wolfe comment "In a world largely composed of cause and effect, all concidences are suspect."

I'm not sure the question matters here. You alleviated someone's pain, Jason. That, not the coincidence, is what counts.

Jaye Wells said...

It's so rare to make that kind of personal connection with strangers these days. We all lumber around in our own bubbles. It's wonderful that you could help alleviate this man's anxiety.

Anonymous said...

This was a very interesting post. That is so great you were able to talk with this man and ease his pain a bit.

I do believe in a higher power (I'm a Christian). However, I also do think there is such a thing as coincidence. Sometimes things just work out in the positive, and there isn't always an underlying power or meaning.

Sarah Hina said...

I agree with Jaye. Most people are too insulated in their own lives to reach out to others. Sometimes listening is all that's required.

I think those that believe in coincidences and those that believe we are responsible for everything can both find something inspirational in your story. A man was comforted.

Bev said...

thank you for sharing this with us -- I've talked a bit about it over on my Ramblings blog

virtual nexus said...

Think 'lumbering around in our own bubbles' is an apt way of putting it. There's a lot in what Jaye says...It isn't always easy nowadays to create contexts to get close to people, given the pace of life (or whatever).

Anonymous said...

Certainly in my own life, there haven't been any coincidences. They've been more, well, gifts, I suppose.

Unknown said...

Sweet serendipity. The movement of the spheres allowed your neurons, however briefly, to synapse with those of another. The potential is actuated, the pattern is transferred from brain to tongue to air to cochlea to brain. A change is made and the meme has transferred itself: a new memory, perpetuated by endless loops of chemistry. Your brain did a good deed that day.

Chris Eldin said...

Sorry I am late in coming here.

I struggle with my beliefs in karma because so much of the world is suffering and in pain. But I believe, for whatever reason, some of us are put in a position to receive more blessings than others. It is our duty to take responsibility for these blessings, and make our best efforts to improve this planet whenever and wherever we can.

I also personally believe that small, intimate moments mean more than grand gestures. Like what you did in the cab. You dropped any sense of judgment you may have had about him being 'only' a cab driver. You focused on his conversation. You validated his feelings and gave him hope. He will now take this and it will inspire him to be the father he knows he is. I don't think he's heard encouragement for a long, long time. He is better off because of it. His children are as well.

I mentioned on Stephen Parrish's blog a week ago that I'm trying to teach my children to pull themselves up and higher with one arm, and use the other arm to help someone else to a higher level. I try to explain to my children that if you use both arms to try to pull others up, you will get pulled down. And using both arms for yourself is selfish. (It makes better sense when I'm telling this to my children!)

My husband is the 'grand' gesture kind of person. The problem is, he has good intentions, but it ends up being mostly talk and no action. What you did, the smaller gesture, makes a grand impact.

I'm not usually this chatty. This is, by far, the longest blog post I've ever written. Thanks for the kind sentiment at the beginning, and congratulations for a good-karma day!

The Anti-Wife said...

"I simply promised to listen."

And therein lies the difference. You listened instead of thinking about yourself and your own life. Too often we are so consumed by our internal dialogue we lose opportunities to help others. Good for you.

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

I got teary eyed reading this post. You did a wonderful thing for that father, but I personally believe you were meant to be there for him, to alleviate his pain. I have a friend who hates when I say "everything happens for a reason" but I believe this deeply. I also believe in karma and that the good you put out into the world will return to you and of course vice versa. Thanks for sharing this story. It was inspirational.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for being absent today, everyone! I wanted to be more interactive on this one, but I was traveling for work today and had a busy evening.

Anonymous said...

Kaycie, thanks. I think I did well.

Szelsofa, being sensitive to the little things...yes, that is a theme here that I believe also. It's the accumulation of small events that is the engine of change.

Julie, I accept the many interpretations. :)

Vesper, for some reason, I find myself in these situations. Maybe it's because in some way I encourage them. As for the photo, I thought folks might like a visual to go with this peek into my other world.

Bernita, very true. It's the result that I valued the most.

Anonymous said...

Jaye, society as a collection of bubbles...that really rings true. Maybe what we need to do is mix some soap into the bubble bath.

StrugglingWriter, yes, that's the other way I was going with this. We make the meaning by our actions. We have to step up and choose to make that difference.

Sarah, if I believed in signs, I would say they come in threes. I've had two. We'll see about the third. If fate wants to one-up me, I'm ready for the challenge. :)

Bev, I'm honored to have inspired some thoughts on your blog! I'm interested to see what folks say.

Julie, yes, we're out of practice. I'm not immune either. At least when it's right there in front of me, I don't turn away.

Twizzle, I like how viewing something as a gift is only the beginning. Viewing something as a curse is the end.

Electric Orchid Hunter, if there's a miracle I'm able to accept, it would be the simple power born from all that delicious complexity.

Anonymous said...

Church Lady, thanks again for the inspiration and thanks being uncharacteristically chatty here! You have a great outlook. I especially like your one/two arm analogy. You can't neglect yourself, because only by being healthy and strong can you truly help someone else. Also, the comment about small gestures resonates with me. I've always valued a person's quiet, geniune attention far more than parties or ceremonies or other showy things. Those geniune moments are not easy to come by.

Anti-Wife, thank you. :) True listening is another gift that is not commonly given. I sense that you give it too.

Ello, life does tend to give us this sort of raw material. We can all celebrate the power we then have to make it into something special. Maybe by doing this post, I've spread the positive energy a bit farther.

Anonymous said...

so uplifting. thank you, jason, for sharing, and for seeking.

Admin said...

thank you so much for sharing. have you read Carl Jung's work on synchronicity?? it's beautiful.

AngelConradie said...

truly awesome dude...
i'm quite speechless...

Mad Munkey said...

Can i get a "Hell Yeah"?

x said...

I just think that in the course of every day, at any moment you might make a difference in someone else's life, or they in yours, if you are open to the possibility. It's easy to just stick your nose in a book and ignore the people around you but sometimes the most profound conversations happen with "strangers on the train." Look at blogging. I've been thinking about this lately. Whether one believes in God or not is a separate issue.

SzélsőFa said...

Quote *although I very much like to see the poetry and beauty in things, I tend to value logic and scientific thought highest of all. I also tend not to look for powers in the universe higher than us.* quote ends
I like how knowing this makes me an old-timer here :))

But I feel that more explanation is needed on your counterpointing the belief in a higher power with the following words of yours
I prefer to hold ourselves responsible for every element and every action that makes up the world. *quote ends

I think you know how I feel about higher power(s), and your last line is also written in my book of guidelines.
I don't see any contradiction between believing a higher power and being responsible for our actions.
Do you?
Would you elaborate on that, perhaps, later on, in another post?
It may come anytime you have time, I'm not in a hurry.

LiVEwiRe said...

Something that I see in this is that you both showed a certain degree of vulnerability. In addition, you both provided something for the other that very few could have. You were where you needed to be. This event has the potential to change many lives when you think about it. I'm glad the opportunity came to you.

iamnasra said...

How true it might be a tiny gesture on someone's part make a huge impact on someone else...
How did it leave you feeling after all...I think with your conversation with him .. it had eased some of the inner thoughts I suppose

S. Kearney said...

Moving story. I hope he gets to see his kids. :-)

Anonymous said...

Ybonesy, sharing it was my pleasure. :)

Vesper, I really need to dive into Jung's writings. I've dabbled around the edges, but that's not nearly enough.

Angel, thanks for the sentiment. =)

Mad Munkey, hell yeah!!

TIV, open to the possibility...yes, that's what I'm trying to say. Regardless of the source, we make that decision to be open. And I agree. Blogging in another way to make a difference.

Szelsofa, once again, you are right to focus on the sentences that you do. I'm thinking of saying more, as you ask. My only hesitation is that long ago I promised myself to stay away from religion and politics here. Maybe if I narrow down on one issue, I can avoid opening too large a question.

Livewire, you're so right to celebrate the others man's strength is speaking to me. He truly was in an impressive guy.

Iamnasra, it left me feeling like one of those life tests of character had been put to me, and I lived up to my own expectations.

Shameless, me too.

SzélsőFa said...

Well yes, if staying away from certain issues is your priority than I accept that.
Sometimes it is hard to discuss things without philosophy/beliefs getting into the picture. And religion/politics are not quite far from that place.
If you wish to keep it free of some area, that is fine by me.
If you think you and your readers can handle some morality topic without getting into religion...that is just as fine.
It's not an easy job.

The Quoibler said...

You received an early Christmas present, Jason... and so did the taxi driver.

Imagine the beauty in this coincidence (or whatever you'd like to call it)... you were given the gift of easing another human's pain... and he was given the gift of unburdening his spiritual load.

Wow. That's pretty mind-boggling.

I hereby appoint you an honorary Doctor of the Soul.


Anonymous said...

Szelsofa, I'm warming up to the idea of saying more about my thoughts. =)

Angelique, yes, it was a gift, both ways. Thanks for embracing the spirit. :)

Precie said...

Jason--Thank you for sharing this experience!