I have been thinking about this today, and I feel like I would like to share. Yesterday I had a super exciting day over all, I taught my regular morning classes and then I went to present at Kramas Yoga School as a lead on the topic of making yoga classes more accessible to all. (I will be sharing more of this experience too and post it later.) If you know me, and my nature, I like to plan and I like to allow plenty of time to arrive somewhere.
Not as early as I should have arrived, because I was to present at 2pm - but I arrive at 1:15pm. Yes. 45 minutes early. I had planned extra time since I knew I'd have to drive through downtown to get to Infinite Flow Yoga Studio and that traffic can unpredictably be backed up, so I of course allowed more time. But, I didn't have to stop at 1 traffic light, it was green all the way and no traffic congestion. So I find a place to park, try to settle my nerves a bit because I am so passionate about this topic and I want to share it in a way that is usefully for yoga teachers to be, I get nervous. I was so much in my head, that I did not see a woman approach my car and her gentle knock on the window startled me a bit.
I made a quick judgment about her and imagined that she was going to ask me for money, so instead of opening up the window on the passenger side, I stepped out of the car on my side and asked her what she wanted. I did than realize she had a very young child (a year old or less) with her. she said she had just missed the bus and needed a ride to a gas station that was about 5 miles back towards downtown. she could give me gas money. After I asked her a few more questions, I told her I just couldn't help her because I was so focused on my presentation and I didn't want to be late. She walked away from me and over to a parking stop about 3 spaces over and sat down I believe to figure out what her next plan was. I asked her if she knew when the next bus was coming and she said in an hour. I observed her again, I took a breath and truly SAW her - someone who was in challenging circumstances, tired, kind and having a bad day. It cannot be easy to ask a complete stranger for a ride to begin with. I will say I also believe that she was about ready to cry. Something inside me said that despite all of the bad things that could happen by giving a stranger a ride, offering her a lift was absolutely the right thing to do. So I did. I told her I did not want her to feel rushed but I could give her a lift if we left right away.
We introduced ourselves by first name, shook hands and she also introduced me to her beautiful daughter Jayla who had the cutest smile EVER when I waved at her. Mom had not only been carrying around all of her belongings but also a car seat so that if she could get a ride with someone her daughter could be safe. The ride and our conversation in the car was about 9 minutes. She had asked me to drop her off at a gas station near a shelter that was about 4 blocks from the gas station. Near the end of the ride, I dropped her off at the shelter so she wouldn't have to walk that much further. My passenger had fallen on hard times and recently evicted from her place. she had some resources of friends and some minimal help from parents but this was her first week that she had to seek a shelter for survival. She again offered me gas money when I dropped her off, I instead chose to give her the few dollars that I had because I believe she needed it more than me. I didn't change her life, I couldn't fix her circumstances, and I couldn't help and I felt that I really didn't make anything better.
After I dropped her off, I drove back and was still 17 minutes before I was to present to the group. plenty of time. I had planned an introduction with learning the students names and talking about my background a bit, but instead with just the few minutes before presenting, I decided to share my experience with the group. I just felt that in many ways this was a practice that felt how we as yogi's and yoga teachers can bring the deepest practices of yoga on the mat into the world. I didn't save anyone, but I imagine I created just a bit of ease and comfort for the day for someone who needed just a bit of accessibility or kindness in that moment.
As I mentioned before, my experience leading the group went so well and I'm still on a bit of cloud from the positive experience. but I also have been thinking about my experience of offering a ride to someone who needed a ride. I want to make clear, that I'm not sharing this with you to have you throw aside any instinct of caution or concern and pick up strangers. I truly had an experience in this moment that although I was raised right and well educated it stood in the way for a moment of seeing the humanity in someone else. I choose to lead with a kind heart an intuition that said do the right thing and not let fear paralyze seeing the humanity in my fellow humankind.
there are many small ways that we can make a difference for someone- I'd love to hear your thoughts or any stories you'd like to share.
I'm Valerie, Yoga Teacher and following my Sankalpa!