APRIL 30, 2016

Fleeting moments that change us

“You are my sister,” he said to me, his eyes brimming with sincerity. This, from a shopkeeper I had met a mere 2 hours before, surrounded by stacks of shawls and scarves of various make. That was in Kathmandu in 2008, when I took to the Himalayas alone for a self-seeking and self-healing pilgrimage. I thought it was his way of thanking me for supporting his business. But as I prepared to leave, he asked if I would like to have tea together, right there seated on floor cushions. I have always been wary of strangers while travelling, especially in Nepal alone, but it felt natural to say yes, and as time paused, we talked. About life, his about herding goats in northern India (for those pashminas) and how hopeful he was about the new-found peace in Nepal after a decade of civil war. That moment has stayed with me, this instant connection with someone whom I knew I would never meet again. Through the years I would sometimes find myself thinking about my Indian-Nepali brother, hoping he continued to do well in life.

This month last year, devastating earthquakes hit Nepal, including the Kathmandu region. With the population seeking shelter in tents for fear of their lives, I tried to scour photos for a sign of my brother, wondering if he made it out alive. Could I even recognize his face? One year later, Kathmandu still waits to be rebuilt. I write this in tribute to the Kathmandu that greeted me with kindness, gentleness, and safety. And to my brother who gave me the experience of connecting authentically, for the first time in my life, with a ‘stranger’. In that fleeting moment he helped me understand that we are all connected with each other, more than we realize or admit, through our shared human experience and our common hopes, dreams, joys, trepidations. Why can we not express more compassion to each other? Do we not need it ourselves?

So how about this challenge? How comfortable are you with acknowledging someone you don’t know, taking the risk perhaps of striking a conversation, no matter how tepid the topic, not knowing how that person might respond? Or something a bit safer, perhaps nodding at someone in a simple affirmation of their presence around you. Never mind what they might think. Simply observe what that feels like for you. That’s what we can do for a start, not wait for other people to start improving the world, hoping they will make things better, kinder, gentler. Let’s make that change, starting with ourselves. Give it a chance. You never know how positively and profoundly you can touch someone’s life.

©2016 Copyright Margie Santos