….Continued from Day 16
At the same time, a different story evolved before my eyes in the same subway car.
Another group, African-American woman with two girls, entered the car on 72 street and grabbed my attention. One of the girls was white, and she had the Down Syndrome. Usually it would be very hard for me to watch children with defects. It is very difficult for me to even think about this. I would be usually afraid that something like that would happen to me or my kids. I know that this is an irrational fear, which stems all the way from the fear of death and all that is physically imperfect. I write this to acknowledge the fear, and to capture the magical force that transformed my perception of imperfection.
They had such a harmony in the relationships between the three of them; I couldn’t stop looking at them with wonder. They were different. But not in the fact that one of the girls was physically imperfect. It was because the girl was deeply loved, and because she was happy. You could see this in the woman’s caring looks. You could see it in the the way they smiled, touched and played with each other. And you could see that in this loving context the girl looked beautiful. You could see that she was a person.
I was stunned how the relationships between them changed my perception of the girl with the Down Syndrome. She was imperfect, and yet beautiful. I liked her; I wanted to play with her. That was a powerful transformation for me, and I wondered later about the nature of that power.
In one of my earlier academic journals I wrote that we become fearless after we embrace our vulnerability. Only when we are ready to be tender and soft we have a chance to develop a true connection with people. And this is really the essence of compassion – the most misunderstood idea in the world.
In her work on imperfection Brene Brown defined that “compassion is not relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s relationship between equals….The heart of compassion is really acceptance. The better we are accepting ourselves and others, the more compassionate we become.”
And for the first time in my life I felt as I and the girl with the Down Syndrome were equal. She has her imperfection and I have mine. I shit every day and in the end I will decay and die. And yet, she is loved as I am, and she loves as I do. So we are equals.
When I realized our equality I felt inspired. I felt strong, but it felt as much bigger power field than the one that was create by the “gang boy” and the “macho guy” just next to us.
The ability to make remarkable things happen, requires much more power than the power of our bodies. It is only possible when we connect to something greater than we are, when we connect to each other. What many see as weakness can truly transform into significant power, because it is the only way to become compassionate, to connect, and to elevate our souls above our fears. I wish I had the guts to see this every day.