Last night I saw a man almost killed—right in front of me.
And it brought out the absolute best in humanity.
I was attending a local outdoor festival to celebrate the end of summer. It was a gorgeous evening and tens of thousands of people had come out to enjoy the fun.
As the event was winding down, my friends and I were making our way through the crowded streets back to our car. The energy was feeling a bit crazed as it often does late at night when large crowds of people come together, many of whom have been drinking heavily.
We were walking slowly, feeling grateful for the incredible meal we had eaten, the balmy night air and the lovely music and dance we had experienced when it happened.
There was a horrific, unmistakable noise and we saw a man’s body tumbling through the air high above the pavement just a few feet in front of us.
A black SUV was roaring right through a crosswalk. The car slowed for a second and then sped off. We had witnessed a hit and run.
The crowd instantly sprang into action.
Someone chased the car to try and get the license plate.
Others ran off and found some orange cones to keep traffic away from the wounded man. Someone directed traffic around the area. A woman stabilized his neck, others stayed on the phone with 911 giving updates until the ambulance could make its way through the crowd. Several folks crouched by the dazed man’s side, holding his hands, talking kindly and gently to him, reassuring him that he wasn’t alone and that he’d be okay, help was on the way.
There were people of all colors, ages, shapes and sizes united in a singular effort to bring comfort to a suffering being. Strangers moments before, we were now of one purpose.
There was no leader; everyone was acting from his/her own heart and gut instinct, offering up whatever might be helpful in that moment. There was no bureaucracy necessary, no committee to study the issue, no money exchanged for our time and efforts, no arguing over who was more important.
It was not about what we could get, only what we could give.
This is basic human goodness at its finest and community at its purest. When the thinking, judging, conditioned mind gets out of the way, it is our natural instinct to help each other, to band together when the chips are down. We are hardwired to be of service.
I remember this phenomenon happening after 9/11. It seems as if the larger the tragedy, the bigger the outpouring of goodness afterwards. Love always trumps hate and ignorance.
It is in trying times that we are reminded of what is really important, how precious life is, and how we could all be an eye-blink away from our last breath or our last hug with loved ones.
Does it have to take a catastrophe to unleash the best in us?
What if we all behaved as if those around us were injured and suffering? The reality is that we are all injured and suffering in some way.
What if we brought our most helpful selves and most generous spirit to every encounter—giving love and not needing anything in return, giving because it feels good and still knowing that it will be returned to us?
What if we acknowledged our common humanity instead of our differences?
As my adrenaline subsided, I sent loving kindness to the gentleman who had his weekend plans drastically altered, to all the kind souls who rallied to his assistance and, yes, even to the troubled soul who hit him.
At the end of the day, kindness, compassion and grassroots cooperation are the most important tools at our disposal. They can bring down systems that are no longer serving and raise a generation of young people to be so comfortable in their own skin and able to manage strong emotions in such skillful ways that they will not need to abuse drugs, alcohol or another person.
We can teach our children that connection and relationships matter and that money should not be valued above all else. We can reward cooperation and not competition. We can start right now.
The way our society feels and functions is a reflection of our collective thoughts, values, beliefs and actions.
Be kind out there.
Author: Erin Sharaf
Editor: Catherine Monkman