We join spokes together in a wheel,
but it is the center hole
that makes the wagon move.
(Tao Te Ching, 11)
The other day, I passed by a familiar face that frequently greets me on my morning walk to class. Despite a passing collegial greeting – a nod, or grin, or ‘Good Morning’ – I rarely spend more than a fleeting second taking notice of this man. And yet, there he stands, day after day, snow or shine, perched on the corner of a bustling Cambridge street, selling the Spare Change newspaper to benefit the local homeless community. He may or may not be homeless himself. Well, this day I stopped to take notice. “What drives you to such compassion and commitment?” I asked. “Where do you draw strength to smile when ignored and overlooked?” I surveyed his light-brown skin, stubble-shaved head, piercing dark eyes and ink-stained yellow gloves. As he spoke, the dangling whiskers above his upper lip danced with excitement: “God helps me out. Because He [sic?] loves all His children, and so I see everybody as my brothers and sisters. And I have lots of friends, you know, who have done bad things, and so I want to show them that you can do good things for people, not for money or for things or stuff, but because you’re a good person in the heart.”
Here was a man, affirming the worth and dignity of every person he met, moved by the center hole of life’s great mystery. Should we ever find such sustaining depth of loving purpose.
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