The tale of an old man’s bag – A lesson in awareness

On my commute to work this morning I was presented with a rather wonderful opportunity. My journey requires a change of trains and a short walk up the stairs over the footbridge and down the other side.

Half way up the stairs I found an old man struggling with a heavy bag. A queue was forming behind him and I could feel the irritation of the other passengers. The man next to me was being held up; the old man was preventing him from being over the bridge already. The lady behind was giving off the most intense anxiety, terrified that this delay would mean that she would miss the connecting train. But above all I could feel the exhaustion and despair of the old man with the bag.

“Please may I help you with your bag?” I heard myself say.

I picked up his bag and carried it to the other side with that word “please” repeating in my head. What an odd word to use when doing something for someone else, we usually use “please” when we want someone to do something for us.

When the old man thanked me for my help I at once realised why. I didn’t do it for him, I did it for me. The weight of his despair that I was feeling was much heavier than the bag, and by carrying the bag I was, in truth, relieving myself of a burden. By helping him with his burden I was simply easing my own. He got his bag carried but I got a warm content feeling for the rest of my journey into London.

I wonder how it would be if we all realised this at once. If we all at once, realised that how we conduct ourselves out there in the world, effects how we feel in here – how we feel inside. How transforming could that be?

We would have stop doing harm, we would have to stop hurting others, we would have to stop our selfishness and our greed, we would have to stop exploitation. Quite simply we would just stop, we would stop because to carry on would hurt too much. We would be different, we would find enjoyment in helping and healing, we would discover how we are all connected and how another’s well-being is also our own. The world would be different and our joy would be reflected back 1000 times over.

“Please may I carry your bag?”


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