Mickey Rooney once said, “You always pass failure on your way to success.” Last Friday, I failed. Twice.
I was sitting at a coffee shop in the middle of a meeting when a woman approached us. “Excuse me. I apologize for interrupting you,” she said politely. She introduced herself and explained that she was homeless. She had been walking a lot and asked us if we had a pair of socks for her. We apologetically said no. She left the shop with her head held high.
As my colleague and I reflected, we concluded that we made the wrong decision. Our heads fell low. We could have easily stopped our meeting and purchased her a pair of socks at a local pharmacy. The irony is that my meeting was all about leveraging social media to make connections…there was someone right in front of me trying to make a connection with me. I failed to make that connection.
That afternoon, I was running to a meeting when it started to rain. I had forgotten my umbrella so I quickly picked up my pace. A few minutes later, a homeless man approached me and started to ask for assistance. “Sorry,” I said as I rushed by him with the rain intensifying. While I didn’t have an umbrella…he didn’t have a home or food or clean clothes. I barely acknowledged him. I failed again.
I imagine that others can relate to these two encounters. We get so caught up in our heads, in our rush from one thing to the next, that we fail to see the opportunities in front of us…the opportunities to connect, to build community, and to show compassion to others.
Maybe we are cynical and let stereotypes trump solutions in our minds. Or maybe we don’t even think about it all because it doesn’t impact us in that moment. Whatever the case may be, imagine if we learned from these failures. If we paused long enough to consider how we could do better next time. If we intentionally looked for kindness and didn’t get distracted by rudeness…or if we sought out solutions versus letting obstacles overwhelm us.
This past weekend, I started looking for signs of compassion all around me.
While riding the subway on Saturday, I observed the bond between a blind woman and her dog. Her dog was there to protect her, guide her and provide companionship. She affectionately scratched his ear and patted his head. They were best friends.
I saw a father set up a picnic lunch for his daughter and wife, placing each container and utensil on the table with such care. I could feel the love he had for his family in that moment.
I saw a mother buy her two kids ice cream cones with rainbow sprinkles. They were smiling from ear to ear.
As I witnessed these moments, these connections, I felt more inspired and compelled to take action. I slowed down. I started being more attentive to how the world is calling me to lend a hand. The world sure could use more hand holding and less fighting…more listening and less arguing…more smiles and less tears.
I’m going to use my failures from last Friday on my way to successfully making a difference, and I invite you to join me.