When I was six, I moved from a little town in Iowa to Toronto. It was my first remembered experience in a big city, and my first experience with homeless people.
My first reaction?
I talked to them.
They were interesting and kind. One man told me his theories on Jesus. Another shared his faith. They all were grateful to have someone listen to them. I wasn’t too young or insignificant to talk to them – they had time for me.
I talked to them because I believe in following your impulses. Not the impulse that tells you to buy the $150 purse in the Coach store or the one that tells you to take advantage of the frazzled convenient store owner who doesn’t have enough money to set up video cameras.
It’s the good impulses – the little squeezes of conscience that inspire us to talk to others and form relationships with strangers. The quiet whisper that asks us to talk to the drudges of society. The nagging thought that the man with the tired eyes wants your subway seat more than you do. The urge to speak your mind against the bully, to confront instead of appease, to react.
Your inner voice is one of morality, of rationality, of benevolence.
Everyday I try to fight the voice of the crowd. I struggle to proclaim my thoughts where it’s easier to keep quiet. I try to resist the temptation to melt into the masses. Everyone goes through the same battles in life, has the same needs, wants to someone to listen to their inner thoughts.
Culture tells us it’s weird to approach strangers. Culture stops you from listening to the pleas of people on the street, tells you that someone else will help them. Culture tells you to worry about their personal space when impulse tells you to give them a hug.
A few years ago, I was having a less than stellar day, it was raining, and I had to take a crowded subway home from school. An older woman next to me made a comment, and pretty soon the whole train had joined in. It wasn’t very long, it wasn’t very profound, but the simple human connection brightened my day. There was a woman who followed her impulses.
It’s just as good a feeling to be on the giving side of the equation. I was walking to the local Acme to buy an ingredient for a cake when I saw a woman with two small children struggling with her groceries at the door. People walked by averting their eyes. A piece of me debated whether or not to help. A second later, I was carrying her bags and opening the door. It only took a minute, but she looked at me appreciatively and told me my mother must have raised me well.
It’s not big, it’s not time consuming, but it’s me following my impulses. This, I believe.
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