Our humanity is intimately tied to our connection with others. I came to understand the power that I hold to make a profound impact on people’s lives, starting with something as simple as eye contact.
A few months ago, Dr Sanjay Gupta on CNN interviewed Kevin Hines, now 38 years old. At age 19, Kevin jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. The instant he jumped, he knew he did not want to die, and as fate would have it, he is one of a select few who actually survived the 220 foot, 80 mph drop. What he said next was startling.
On the bus en route to the bridge, Kevin had been distraught and crying. He reports that if one person had looked at him with kind eyes, just one, let alone had someone asked if he was ok, he would not have jumped. In other words, kind eyes or a compassionate solicitation would have run interference against this most desperate of human intentions.
The story moved me profoundly. What hit me was the idea that people need to feel connected and validated. Our own humanity and sense of self-worth are intricately tied to our interaction with others. It got me to thinking what it must be like to be invisible. How often have I walked past a homeless person and looked away?? By just looking at someone and shooting a smile, I can dignify a person in unimaginable ways. This small news story had a big impact on me. It has opened my eyes literally and ignited me to make small, positive changes in my interactions with strangers in need.
Kevin Hines is now an advocate for suicide prevention. He fought for a safety net which is planned for installation below the Golden Gate bridge by 2021.
“It Takes Us All” to Make a More Compassionate World
As acknowledged above, compassion can be delivered in small ways every day. I found a way to make an even greater impact on the lives of others through my work with a nonprofit, Community Forward SF (previously Community Awareness & Treatment Services, Inc). By working hand in hand with this organization, I have come to appreciate that we are all part of a community, and the health and well-being of the community are our collective responsibility. In other words, responsibility starts with yours truly.
The goal of the work I am doing is to rename, rebrand the organization, and generate more effective marketing communications as a basis for improving community outreach. In collaboration with the Executive Director, Kara Zordel, much has already been achieved with more work to be done. Through this affiliation, I am positively impacting the lives of strangers in ways that I might never have anticipated. I have come to experience the gifts associated with delivering positive change in the world.
It is easy to go through life with blinders on. Real change occurs when we are compassionate to others and get involved. As I learned from Kara Zodel, “it takes us all.” And importantly, I remind myself to make eye contact, shoot a smile, and reach out to someone who needs it.