Several mornings a week when I drive my son to school, I give the teenager across the street a ride down the hill as well. He's a good kid, but always has some story to prove how cool he is or how strong he is because he got into a fight with somebody. I just listen to him talk and offer a different way of looking at things.
Today when we drove down the hill, we saw a friend of his walking down too. I said I'd be happy to pick him up, and so we pulled over and the friend jumped in with us. This kid had a pack of cigarettes in one hand and his ears were thumping music from his earbuds. I introduced myself and my son, and he mumbled an introduction of himself.
My sense was that this kid, not unlike my neighbor, didn't have a lot of adults doing kind or generous things for him. I guessed that he felt he was in this world alone, and having some old lady offer him a ride was nothing special. When I dropped them off, the usual thank you and goodbye I get from my neighbor was replaced by two muffled "see-ya's." And another day of machoism begins.
I got a lot out of that brief interaction, yet I wouldn't say I connected with either of them. But there is a connection. There is a connection between all of us.
What I got out of the morning drive with these two tough teens was a reminder of a movie I saw recently by Tom Shadyac. The fellow who made Ace Ventura and Bruce Almighty also made a documentary not too long ago. It's one of those rich-person-has-health-crisis-and-searches-the-world-to-find-meaning documentaries, but I have to say, it was worth the viewing.
One part that stood out for me was when Shadyac meets up with some scientists at HeartMath Institute. To prove their point that we all are sending out energy from our hearts all the time, they showed Shadyac their recent study. They hooked up some electrodes to a bowl of yogurt, and connected the yogurt to a meter that gauged well, energy in the yogurt. The scientist asked Shadyac questions, and... the yogurt responded. No, not with words, but by sending an electrical signal that moved the meter needle on the gauge. When Shadyac was asked about his agent and his lawyer, the needle went to the top of the range. The yogurt was responding to the energy message that Shadyac's heart felt about the topics. No, the yogurt and Shadyac were not "connected," neither literally with cords, nor emotionally. It was yogurt after all. But the energy of Shadyac's heart was able to be felt by and measured in the yogurt.
Now, I know that I didn't alter the worlds of either of those kids I drove down the hill this morning. They probably forgot the ride the moment they slammed the mom-van door. But maybe that tiny act of genuine, honest kindness on my part sunk in. I know it connected us for a brief moment through our hearts. Maybe one or both of them might share that tiny bit of kindness with someone else today. Maybe not.
I guess the point of balance today is to remember that whatever is in our hearts is what we are projecting into the world. Do something small, something kind, something to shower a bit of goodness onto someone else. Do something that lets your heart connect, and send out waves of generosity to the hearts (or the yogurt) that may need it most today. Sometimes that's all we can do. Most of the time it's enough.