Today I will be writing about the first of Shin Ho Kwan’s seven principles, and that principle is compassion.  At a local Barnes and Nobles store, I was the recipient of a random act of kindness from a group of people I had never met before.  The act was small but very touching, and it made me think about how we as martial artists and people ought to act towards one another.

On a day that my girlfriend and I were going around town, we elected to visit the local Barnes an Noble bookstore.  We had just seen a movie and didn’t want to return to our homes yet.  It is rare that I get the time to visit my favorite bookstore, and it is always a treat to check what’s new: especially in the martial arts section 🙂

My favorite bookstore

I began the visit by checking out what new martial arts magazines they had (I’m an avid follower of Blackbelt magazine). While I was poking my head around the magazine section, there was a husband and wife talking to each other right next to me.  Because it was so packed in the store and we were literally right next to each other, I couldn’t help but overhear that they were conversing in Japanese.  Those of you who know me know that Japanese language has been a long time hobby and interest of mine; I had even lived for a short time (2 months) in Fukuoka.  Naturally, I was interested in what they were talking about and thought I might try to practice some of my Japanese.

So I jumped in, “あの、すみません、あなたたちは日本人ですか?(um, pardon me, are you two Japanese?)” I then introduced myself, and we began to chat for a while in Japanese.  My language skill was rusty, but I was able to hobble through a brief conversation about where we were all from, how things were in Japan, etc.  Like many Japanese people whom I’ve met, the couple was very friendly.  After our short conversation, I thanked them, and parted ways being happy both to have met such nice people and to have had a chance to practice a bit of real life Japanese conversation.

A little while later in the store as I was continuing to browse, I was approached by the couple, and they gave me a piece of origami.  Unbeknownst to me, their children had been close by and watch me converse with their parents and were inspired to make me a piece of origami that even contained a Japanese coin inside as a gift for me.  However small a gesture this may seem, I was blown away.  I couldn’t believe that a casual conversation had inspired someone to make a little gift for me.  There was no fear of stranger danger; there was only an embracing of the moment and a warm  acceptance of our collective human experience.

A personalized gift for me that even contained a Japanese coin!

For the rest of that evening, and even now, I felt very touched by this gesture.  It really made me think about how we as members of modern society tend to relate to each other and how we could or should be relating to each other.  Don’t worry, I’m not one of those everything-is-wrong types that’s about to dump on our society; I think there’s a lot of things we do well.  However, I do see that we tend to be rather guarded when around people we don’t know.  We stay away from others and don’t want to get involved.  Many of us have learned to do this because ill-intending people have taken advantage of us in the past when we have tried to be kind, so we learn to be somewhat cold and guarded towards others we don’t know.  This family, however, was openly compassionate, and it was incredible.  Imagine a world where these sorts of acts of kindness were commonplace and everyone took just a little moment here and there to make someone else’s day a little better.

That’s the sort of world I want to see developed.  Lives can become so much brighter with random acts of kindness and small acts of compassion in which we show appreciation for each other and empathy for our shared experiences.  This experience inspired me to be more open to others and more compassionate my fellow humans.

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