I was leaving the market and almost walked into a teenage boy who was selling cookies. He tried to get my attention by talking really fast about raising money for some kind of a trip. Was he for real, or was it a scam? I was in no mood to find out, so with a wave of my hand I dismissed him and said, “No, thank you!” and walked away. He responded with, “ Have a nice day.”
I drove away. Rather than feeling relieved that I didn’t give in, I felt really bad for how I treated him. I didn’t even hear what he had to say. With a wave of my hand, I made him disappear into a non-entity. People need to be seen and heard, and I did neither. I had a feeling deeper than guilt; it went to my very core and rocked my sense of compassion. Who am I? Am I a person who doesn’t allow space for others? Am I oblivious to their feelings? Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said. They will forget what you did. But, they will never forget how you made them feel.”
I turned the car around and went back. I said to him, “I am sorry for how I treated you. I didn’t even listen to what you said. Can you tell me now?” I listened and chose to make a contribution toward his summer trip. It was a conscious choice. I extended my humanity to him. I listened to him. I don’t know how he felt, but I felt more at peace having shared my attention and compassion with him. I saw him and heard him, and let him know that he was valuable to me.