Tuesday, September 25, 2007

JMO - First be a Human Being

I was listening to KUOW's Weekday Show Monday (9/24/07) with the interview of Greg Mortenson about the Central Asia Institute and book Three Cups of Tea. I'm trying to find the book at local bookstore, so I haven't read it yet, but it clearly sounds worth the read.

The whole story is about one man's journey and bringing the rest of many others into Pakistan and Afghanistan to build schools for girls. Why is it that mountain climbers are often some of the nicest and most generous people you'll ever meet? Maybe because the business and sport of climbing requires everyone to follow the first rule? And that is?

Above all else when living in the world, first be a human being and treat everyone else like a human being. We're all human beings, what's so hard to understand? Or do we forget the old adage by John Bradford, "There, but for the grace of God, go I." What's so hard to understand that we are one of 6-plus billion people living today and another 5+ billion who have ever lived, so while we're unique as an individual, we're still one of the many human beings, and by the stroke of luck, who we are right now.

I remember a day at work a few years ago. I liked to take long walks at lunch, usualy 3-4 miles around downtown Tacoma where the office was. I would pick a compass direction and walk for 20 minutes or so, make a loop and walk a different route back. One day on a plaza I saw a transient walking aimlessly in and out of the street into traffic yelling at drivers and people. The drivers were trying to get away fast and people walk away fast.

Obviously someone also called the police as Tacoma has an active police presence downtown and enforce their anti-panhandling and transient laws. Finally the transient crossed the street but not before taking off his tennis shoes and throwing them at cars passing by. He crossed into the plaze threatening people before coming up to me, yelling words or something to that effect I couldn't understand as he walked.

He got a few feet from me, stopped and started talking at me. When he stopped I asked him, "What is your name?" He froze and stood there speechless for about a minute. I said, "How can I talk to you if I don't know your name?" He looked at me, and then quietly walked away, occasionally looking over his shoulder at me with a quizical look. He didn't get far as the police arrived and he quietly got into the police car.

I don't know why he reacted as he did, but it seemed obvious to me that he wanted to provoke people until someone treated him like a human being. By simply being another human being I think he decided I wasn't either a threat or afraid. I wish he had told me his name to talk with him and understand him for a moment in our lives. Our paths crossed and we didn't share our names. The simple act humans do.

And for that moment God graced me another person whose life was so different to remind me I'm just another human being too.

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