It was three nights ago, I couldn’t sleep, as is often the case on warm nights. New York in August feels like a wet blanket fresh out of the oven. It’s hard not to sweat just bending over. My fiancée had gone out to her parents for the night, and the quiet in the house was peaceful, but incomplete. Truth be told, I just can’t stand to be away from her. Television didn’t do it, 25 minutes of baseball highlights later, still restless. A few books I’m in the middle of didn’t provide any repose either. I wondered, why the unrest? An incessant pebble of anxiety was rolling like a marble through my stomach. It was 1:30am; I sat in my backyard trying to enjoy the serenity of the calm hot air, barely rustling a tree.
How it came upon me, I’m still unsure now as I write this, but it did. It wasn’t rousing or electric, rather a subtle beckoning. “What can you do for someone else right now?” It’s a question we all would be well served to ask ourselves daily, if not hourly. But admittedly is difficult to do so consistently, sometimes even harder to remember, and yet even harder to execute with all of the daily demands and responsibilities we have.
For whatever reason, it came to me then, and I set out to try and satisfy this late night necessity. I pondered for a couple minutes about what I could do. I realize now my thoughts immediately were inordinately large in scale. Donate to a couple of charities online, maybe try and structure a new non-profit, bring those older clothes in the hall closet to Goodwill maybe? Neither of these, or the 7 other “big” ideas I had seemed satisfactory.
I decided then it’s never the scale of the action, it’s the intention.
I threw on some shoes and left my house. I ran to the local bodega where the keeper has set up an elaborate, and noticeably ingenious, mini-fan situation keeping him cool behind the tiny counter. I asked for change for a $50 dollar bill and set back out into the balmy night.
New York is a place of supreme opulence, the wealth that you see here at times is so staggering, it’s almost impossible to fathom. But what makes New York unique is amongst all of this privilege, often right on the street below a glass or brick tower of extreme abundance and luxury, sits heartbreaking poverty. In the summer the streets are littered with the sleeping less fortunate. Under bus stops and freight elevators, park benches and subway entrances. Every possession they own surrounding them like sentinels against the indifference of the city.
I set off that night and placed a few dollars as close to every sleeping homeless person I saw, as I meandered through lower Manhattan. Each time, was a needed and humbling reminder of the living blessing most of us share in everyday. I had not walked more than ten blocks before I was out of cash. I got some more and continued on my trek.
When I got home later, as the sun was beginning to peek over the east river and the day’s emails began to roll in, I sat thankful for lesson I had stumbled upon this sleepless night. We have an enormous opportunity, as human beings, to be a gift to each other. It doesn’t have to be money, I am lucky and grateful to help in that regard, but that is just one of a myriad amount of ways we can be a daily or hourly gift in the lives of others. It could be a supportive compliment at the end of an email, a quick text to let someone know you are thinking of them and hoping for their success, an extra minute or two of listening even when you are exhausted and crave nothing but ten minutes of silence. It could be simply holding the door open for someone or telling them they look nice that day.
Let’s try to remember it matters not how big or small our actions are, it’s the intention that counts.
All my Best,