When life imitates art right before your eyes, you know the universe is talking to you directly, poignantly asking you to wake up and pay attention. I call it a “soul jolt.”
I had that wakeup call over the weekend. I was dropping my five-year-old daughter and her little friend off at a rehearsal for the musical, Cats. In front of the studio in the street was a homeless woman wrapped in rags, hunched over, reeking of pungent urine and lugging five battered cases down the street to nowhere.
A young girl and her mother were just ahead of us.
“What’s wrong with that lady?” The girl asked.
“She is homeless—dirty.” The mom said, shushing the girl, “Just ignore her.”
The snapshot of that human tragedy entered at shutter speed, searing an ache into my being. I studied the mom whose words shook me, and then back at the woman in the street, as car horns blared at her.
I ushered the kids into the theater and rushed up the stairs. I glanced back through the window and saw the lady in the street—a pathetic picture of a broken soul along with my reflection in the glass. One looking past the other.
How had I become one of the disconnected witnesses who walk on by.
I managed upstairs holding my daughter’s hand hoping to show her through action the true art of living a conscious life. And here I found myself woefully unconscious. How easy it is to judge, ignore, deny such pain; how easy it is to walk by such need without stopping to help. How is it possible to shut down to the silent yet overwhelming cries of collapsed spirits around us. I wondered which of us were more broken—the lady on the street or those who just shield their hearts and eyes and pass on by.
I’ve stopped my car on rush-hour streets after long, tired days working. Running into traffic to try and save lost dogs, chasing after a poor animal in the dark that was not mine. Yet I somehow walk on by a human being, a young, broken woman in the street drenched in sorrow in broad daylight for all to see, to walk the kids up to theater class.
My insides recoiled with pangs of realization that the me who longed to champion that woman, to be the one who would extend help no matter the inconvenience, required too much in real life.