Saving the World with a Bagel & Cup of Coffee

One of my Monday morning rituals involves stopping at a very specific bagel store on the way home from my girlfriend’s house. I have been there often enough for the counter help to know my name and what I order. On this particular Monday the man ahead of me was placing a large order. Two dozen bagels. He was being very specific about the number of each type of bagel he was ordering. I had mentioned to him that his order seemed important. He paused, turned to face me and said, “I have a responsibility to feed the people in my office Monday morning when they come back to work.” He then offered to pay for my order. It was a kind and generous offer. He then said, “feeding his employees breakfast was important to him and that I too need to fed.“

This entire interaction took no longer than 2 minutes.  I was left feeling this man’s gesture of unsolicited and spontaneous kindness. I picked up my order and walked back to my truck. My heart felt open. I felt received as a human being. I took a moment to reflect into that moment. He didn’t ask what religion I was. He didn’t ask me about my political affiliation or if anything about my sexual identity. In that moment it didn’t matter. There was just two people who were able to make a very human connection and at of all places, a bagel shop.

We often hear about the outpouring of support after a disaster whether man made or natural. It is not uncommon for people send unsolicited financial or material support when there is a major disruption in people’s lives. The givers of this support often do not know the recipients.  I would like to think that this gesture of charity arises out of the humanity of our species.  The irony to this generosity is that the human species can also be cruel and unforgiving. It seems like one of the many paradoxes of living among 7 billion people. Maybe there is a charity gene and a cruelty gene. Who knows? Who knows why which one is expressed at any given time.

I rather focus on what happens in the human nervous system that short circuits the impulse to be kind and generous. I would rather try to understand why a person would turn away from that natural impulse of the heart to show love and compassion.

In previous blogs I have written about how the human brain is somewhat hard wired to make fear a default emotion. A left over from human evolution that was needed to survive.  

It has been my experience that the human mind is a master storyteller. It creates stories about our lives. Those stories tend to foundational. They are created out of experiences we gather as we move through our lives and are heavily weighted on the earliest part of our existence. It seems that the content of our personal stories is primarily derived from the beginning of our lives when we are children. There is a saying about how impressionable child are. They are sponges absorbing the entirety of their lives. That time tends to be foundational in how our beliefs and attitudes toward life form.

For the rest of our lives our minds take over. They are like attorneys searching for evidence of the rightness of our belief system. Take a moment and feel into the most compelling issues of our times. Ukraine. Politics of exclusion. Gun violence. The environment. Religion. Fear of the lack of abundance. It is a long list.  Our personal stories and the beliefs arise from them are often polarizing. Humanity tends to fall on one side or the other of all the issues the define our time on this planet. Please understand I am not excusing away the horrible things people are capable of and often can do.

It is my belief that we all have a choice. A choice to follow the impulse of fear or to connect to a deeper expression of being human. An expression of caring, love and acceptance.

So next time you are in a bagel store offer to pay for someone’s order.

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