It’s December, and cold, but I’m still getting a ride on my bike every chance I get. Heated gloves help and so does layering up. We year round bikers are forever optimistic and try and make the best of things. So I’m still riding, reflecting and meditating. I’ve been going to the free meal program I help out at and talking with the poor and homeless I meet there. I make paper airplanes for the kids that read books to me and for the younger ones who will let me read to them. I mop floors and I’ll tell you right now: I swing a mean mop. Last night at the program the troubles and violence of recent events in the world were very far away from the normal trouble and violence experienced there by the poor and homeless every day. There were people sleeping in tents in nearby woods, others trying to get enough money to stay the night at a Motel 6, a man worrying about traffic fines and the jail time he’d get if he couldn’t pay them, and he knew he couldn’t. What was going to happen to the grandkids he was taking care of? Foster care? I spoke with a couple who used to ride Harleys but had to sell them to cover medical expenses. One man told me he wants to give me his old Harley gloves because, he says, “I’ll never get to ride again.” Some folks talked about last week’s football games, upcoming games, and coaches hired or fired. I watched laughing kids run past me to the playground and listened to their happy, screaming voices. And I witnessed small kindnesses – a man who has a car will give someone a ride to visit a loved one in the hospital; when the donated milk runs out a man gives his to a woman who didn’t get any; folks help with sweeping the floors, cleaning tables and taking the garbage out. And I have to say that the beauty of the children, their smiles and high fives, always melts this biker’s heart.
What with all the shootings around the world recently it’s easy and understandable to feel anger, even hatred at the individuals and organizations that have committed these horrific crimes. Beyond the compassion we feel for others, we worry about our own family and friends. Rippling out from these feelings can be a sense of helplessness, vulnerability and an angry determination not to have these events ever happen again on our watch. So we look for quick solutions. Gun control advocates hurl their angry comments. Gun possession advocates fire back with their claims of defense. Some people get angry at all Muslims. Others get angry at the people who stereotype all Muslims as killers, all refugees as evil. Regardless of the “side” we take in our words and writings (postings etc.) we can all too easily move beyond any sincere questioning of our own views, any honest searching for the truth, any engaging in rational analysis and argument. We can come to take pleasure in making fun of others, ridiculing them and their beliefs. Sometimes it seems like we have reached the point where we have fallen in love with hate.
I know a lot of folks’ mommas, like mine, used to tell us that if you can’t say anything good about anyone, then keep your mouth closed. The opposite now seems to be true. Don’t say anything good about others, just share your anger and ridicule for them. Falling in love with hate is a terrible path to head down. It’s not going to take you to any good place, to where your religion or beliefs want you to go.
I think of the children smiling and playing at the free meal program and it gives me hope. On all of our parts it’s going to take some deep soul searching, compassion, compromise and cooperation to solve the problems our world faces, both in the random suffering and violence we hear about in the shootings and in the ongoing suffering and violence of the poor and homeless, who are constantly in our midst. Compassion, mine and yours, and the spiritual and practical beauty it can create when it’s combined, is our only way out. Otherwise, our only choice is to fall in love with hate.
Ride safely. Ride with compassion.