By Barb Arland-Fye
Scrolling my Facebook feed late last week I stopped at a post from Carol, a friend who shares uplifting messages, images and occasional videos. I clicked on a 3-minute animated video she shared, “Ticket without a Seat.” I’ve been reflecting on it ever since.
The story takes place in a passenger train where an elderly man relying heavily on a cane walks down the aisle, searching for an open, free seat. His ticket comes without a seat. Several passengers ignore the man but one young woman rises from her seat to offer it to him. He accepts, but later offers the seat back after learning that her destination is hours away … and so is his.
I can’t tell you how the story ends without giving away the surprise that brought a lump to my throat. I can tell you that the final image on the video contains this text: “The real kindness is when you are ready to give up something that you need yourself.”
Later, I viewed a message from another friend. The cartoon message on Facebook shows a man in a prone position on top of a cliff with a boulder on his back. His outstretched arm holds onto the arm of a woman dangling off the cliff. A ledge juts out below her … but a deadly snake, which the man cannot see, is perched on the ledge. The woman cannot see that a boulder is crushing the man. Each one thinks that the other is not doing enough to help one another in this crisis. They haven’t considered the barriers that the other might be facing.
Both messages reminded me of one that Bishop Thomas Zinkula gave at Mass last week to offenders in prison. Encounter one another; accompany one another; see Christ in one another. Think about how you treat one another, the bishop said.
All three messages come to mind as I think about my reaction to my older son’s quirky, sometimes exasperating behavior last Saturday night. We had just gotten off the phone with my husband Steve, who was out of town but heading home. Steve and Colin discussed the route Steve would take. As soon as the call ended, Colin asked, “Is dad coming home tonight?” He asked Patrick, his younger brother, and me, the same question. We were in the same room! “What did Dad say?” I responded impatiently.
Throughout the evening, Colin got up repeatedly from his rocking chair in the family room to get more books from the living room bookcase, turning on and off lights each time. I allowed impatience to get the best of me and berated him. “Why are you going back and forth to get books,” I demanded.
He responded as only a young man with autism could: “It is my responsibility.” I have no idea what he meant by that response, but that’s not important. I didn’t stop to consider what boulder might have been on his back that night, what snake might have been menacing in his mind. I wasn’t ready to give up something that I know I need myself — compassion and understanding.
It’s time to re-watch that 3-minute video on kindness!
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at email@example.com.)