Simple Presence: The Kid
Commuting to work one recent morning, I was crossing the Metro platform, heading to the escalator, when I noticed a man on his knees on the ground, holding a bloody tissue to his nose. And a loose circle of four or five others were standing around him but at some distance. Thinking he had plenty of help, I kept walking. But something gave me pause and so I retraced my steps and came to kneel beside him and offer him a fresh handful of tissues.
As I knelt there, I noticed more details –- a lot of blood on the ground, a man in a Metro uniform on his cell phone calling for help, a mother with a young girl about four years old who seemed very agitated as she looked from the man to the blood, two other women standing near and watching.
As I continued to hand him handfuls of tissue as needed, a young man stopped and offered a suggestion to slow the bleeding. Someone dropped some pages of newspaper over the bloody mess on the ground. Another helped the man off his knees and into a seated position up against a wall. Yet another retrieved a shoe that the man had lost and helped put it back on his foot. The man on the phone kept trying to get some official assistance.
I was struck by how each of us was doing one simple thing that all added up to this man being surrounded by care and getting the help he needed…how simple it was really to be a helpful, compassionate presence in that moment and that I didn’t have to do or even think of everything, only the part that was mine to do.
As the man regained some composure, I asked him what had happened. “I was crossing the platform to the escalator and I tripped over A KID,” he spit out — as if the child had no right to be there, as if the child were at fault for being only three feet tall and below his line of sight as he rushed for the escalator, as if the child had placed herself in his way and was the one responsible for this situation.
I then realized that the young girl standing with her mother was the child in question. Recalling from my own childhood an experience of having been responsible for an almost-injury that did not actually happen and the shame and mortification I carried for years about that incident, I pondered for a moment if I should speak to the child. Should I step even further into this situation? Was it presumptuous of me to assume I knew what she needed? I paused for a moment, asking for guidance, and the answer seemed to be, “If not you, then who? Who would know better how that young girl might be feeling right now?”
So I approached the child and knelt beside her and asked, “Were you hurt when the man tripped over you?”
“No”, she answered.
“Was it scary?”
“Would you like to say something to the man?”
With no hesitation, as if she were just waiting for the opportunity, she said “Yes” and still holding her mother’s hand, she crossed to the man. I held my breath, hoping that the man would not growl back to the young girl, whatever she might say him.
With the man still seated on the ground, the two were at eye level with each other. Looking straight at him, she said gently and quietly, “I’m sorry.” And he replied gently, “I’m sorry.” And then the child reached her arms out to touch the man’s shoulders and leaning in, she kissed him on the forehead.
And with the six of us others, now gathered closely around, I gasped. My heart swelled, felt too big for this body. I caught the eye of some of the others, and each seemed as moved by what we had just witnessed as I was.
I will never forget that image of the child, the Christ-child, reaching her arms out to touch the man and kiss him with pure uninhibited Love.
I floated on air the rest of the day as I recalled her stepping close and kissing the man. (I float on air writing about it now.) I could have simply felt good about stopping to help the man and accompanying him to his destination in case he needed help again. But honestly, that was the easy part. We all do know how to help each other. I felt very blessed by Grace and Wisdom to recognize the child’s distress and be guided to help her release her anxiety.
But the abiding blessing of the experience, a blessing I am sure every person present felt, was to be witness to The Kiss. To witness — with simple presence — and in that witnessing, be so blessed.
It awes me still… that simply being witness to such sweet and pure compassion and love filled me full to overflowing… so full of love that day that I think I could have flown if I chose to.