I would never call myself a pessimist, yet it seems clear to me (and I think most people would agree) that, over the course of the last several decades, our society has become less concerned with thoughtfulness toward others and increasingly focused on the individual. The last administration certainly gave us a good push in that direction, and the ramifications of this can and will continue to be felt for a long time to come.
Personally, I felt the effects of this shift earlier this week when my brand new car was hit while parked in broad daylight in the very center of Pittsfield, MA (just steps from the police station, mind you), without a note, an apology, a name or phone number left behind. A hit-and-run. The driver simply fled the scene, leaving me to pick up the $500 tab for repair.
This may not surprise you. I confess, it didn’t surprise me either. Perhaps I’m fooling myself, but I don’t believe this lack of personal responsibility was nearly so prevalent 5-, 10-, 15-, 20 years ago.
This slow descent into disregard for others comes with a hefty price tag. In my own case, the obvious damage – that to the car – was notable. Not chump change for a self-employed yoga teacher. But there’s further damage beyond the cost of repair. That one selfish action caused injuries beyond the hit to my wallet: I feel less safe in my own hometown right now; I’m less apt to spend my time or money in the businesses there. Reasonable or not, I feel less positive toward its citizens and more cautious toward strangers, in general. I’m feeling more protective of myself, my home and my personal property. My sense of generosity and my ability to ‘trust the universe’ are hampered… The list goes on and on.
Each of these reactions in me – temporary as they may be – will, likely, cause another set of chain reactions. My hurt, my anger, my trepidation can cause yet more harm – particularly if I’m not aware of them. My personal responsibility is to be aware of that driver’s actions on me and to minimize the harm I cause to others as a result.
Let none of us underestimate the power of our actions. Their effects live on. None of us lives in a bubble. We are all connected.
Hitting a car and walking away may be a relatively small event in itself, yet its impact is far-reaching because we are so interconnected.
The good news is that the reverse is true, too. Just as one uncaring action magnifies hurt, anger and fear, one kind action magnifies love, trust and hope.
Let us all take care today to create more of that which we desire. And may our connection to one another and to our yoga inspire and awaken this truth in ourselves, in one another and in our communities.