The last time I was thrown from my bike was the summer of 1996. A careless right turn by a driver who wasn’t paying attention. Three cracked ribs, shock, a separated collarbone, whiplash, road rash and a destroyed left shoulder was the final damage tally.
A sobbing and remorseful driver remained at the scene and two good samaritan paramedic witnesses stabilized the shock as we waited for the ambulance to arrive.
Nine months of intense physiotherapy followed as body parts healed. The shoulder though, would never be the same.
Earlier this month, and almost 17 years to that fateful day, I was hit again. This time, though, I was hit by apathy – literally. I was the recipient of a deliberate act of random violence.
Two sprained ribs, shock, whiplash, road rash and, you guessed it, that same shoulder – buggered again. And so the familiar path of healing has commenced yet again. My body being cared for by an amazing team of trusted health care practitioners. My bike repaired by the local bike shop. My spirit bouncing back with every day that passes.
Everything that can be fixed is being fixed – except, that is for the societal problem that created the violent and indifferent behavior in the first place.
So what happened?
The fateful moment occurred this past Canada Day long weekend (July 1 for non Canadian readers). The roads were peaceful and quiet. I was out on my trusty steed enjoying the sun on my back, the wind in my face and a smile in my heart. Grateful for the ability to move my able body on such a gorgeous summer evening.
Riding through a quiet suburban neighborhood, I felt a sudden energy shift in the air. I noticed three teenage boys – likely no more than 16 yrs. old, walking along the side of the road with an energy field that warned me to remain alert.
What happened next happened so quickly that it still seems surreal.
Just as I was about to pass on my rapidly moving bike, they lurched in front of me with vacant arrogance. I had little room to swerve as one particularly large kid (girth and height) aggressively launched himself into my path. Much to my shock and horror, he’d deliberately body-checked me while I was still moving on my bike!
…and then time slowed down.
I went down hard. Bare skin on pavement. Blood, road rash, torn clothing and shock. Would my body ever come to a stop?
When the long slide finally ended, the only thought in my head was… why? I looked around, bleeding, dazed and confused. Looking for the perpetrators. Looking for help. The trio had already sauntered onward. I didn’t exist. In their world, it appeared that nothing had happened.
I collected what wits I still had about me, shouted after them to stop and angrily hobbled in their direction with my bike still lying on the road. The bleeding was profuse, the pain intense and the violent shaking in my body owned me. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was in an utter state of disbelief over what had just transpired.
I finally reached them. Emotions flaring as I desperately looked for something…anything that resembled remorse. They stopped, turned around and we made eye contact. What looked back at me will haunt me for as long as I live. I stared into the blank eyes of 3 living beings that I’m not sure were human. The sense of separation was so vast that it was almost terrifying. I felt nothing. No emotion. No remorse. No feeling. Nada. Emptiness, a black void. It was beyond apathy. From the energy they projected, I could sense that if I had died, it would have meant nothing that they were the cause of it.
Their energy stopped me cold. Did this really happen or was this just a very painful lucid nightmare?
Time has a way losing its linear qualities and warping itself in the presence of trauma. I don’t know how long it was before the Universe sent two beautiful guardian angels to my aid, but I will never forget the act of kindness that followed.
An old beater of a car stopped in front of my full carbon, very expensive road bike (still lying on its side in middle of the street) as two young men ran towards the four of us – shouting with panicked concern in their voices. They were quick to piece together the story as they witnessed my physical condition crumble before the vacant eyes of the teenage zombies now staring blankly at all of us.
Realizing that reason was futile in the face of blatant apathy and feeling more concern and empathy for my physical condition, the angels slowly guided me across the road.
They spoke gentle words of reassuring compassion. They offered me towels for the bleeding. They helped me with my bike. And then they insisted on driving me home. They were the absolute beauty in the face of immense ugliness.
Two strangers who I will only ever know by first name (Kia and Raza) cared enough to stop, act out of pure selfless compassion and instantly restore my faith in humanity.
They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul. And, within mere moments, I saw it all. I saw the black soullessness of apathy. And the beaming light of compassion.
The flurry of emotion that has come out of this incident has left me pondering the meaning of it all.
On one hand, I feel that I looked into the eyes of all of the world’s problems on that fateful evening. The same eyes that destroy and oppress animals, nature, women, and one another. The same eyes that murder little children in public schools and toss pressure cooker bombs into crowds of innocent bystanders. This is what haunts me. How did they become this? What kind of society has created this?
And on the flip side, I was connected to two beautiful hearts who acted out of sheer kindness expecting nothing in return.
Quite honestly, I feel more emotion over the polarity of the human condition than anything else since this incident. I truly experienced darkness and light within moments of one another.
I’ve since spoken with teachers, health care providers and parents as I try to make sense of it all. The answers are similar – that this behavior has sadly become the norm with the youth of today. Interestingly, all spoken with resigned acceptance.
Aha, the true answer – resigned acceptance. The root of the problem. Also known as indifference.
But I refuse to accept that our society has degraded to this level just yet. Yes, I clearly see that the trendy “I’m too busy/I have no time” excuse spewed with reckless abandon often means “I’m too busy” for the kids. I also see how the violence, oppression, sexism, racism, speciesism and all other “isms” – the holy grails of the television, media, advertising and mainstream communication worlds – have infiltrated the collective mindset. I also see how the illusion of connection that has been perpetuated through texting, facebooking, tweeting and other assorted new era electronic means has driven us further away from genuine human connection. But, despite all of these societal realities, I cannot, in my heart believe that this behavior has “become the norm”. I believe it’s a symptom of a society gone seriously wrong but, call me an optimist, I still believe in the unwavering power of the human heart.
Initially I’ll admit that I felt bullied, victimized, and violated. But I now realize that what I experienced was a metaphor for a much deeper societal problem. I don’t believe that the behavior of those boys was motivated by hate or anger. I believe instead that the roots come from something far more vulnerable.
In today’s world of rampant stress, judgement, conformity, and indifference, there is an obvious lack of self-worth, acceptance, and empathy along with a deep sense of isolation and a great absence of true core love. I believe that I was on the receiving end of this emptiness.
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” —Elie Wiesel
It’s not in my nature to be violent or to hang on to negative emotions for long. I’m actually not upset at those boys. But I am upset at a culture that has created a level of apathy and indifference that affects people at such a young age and hurts others in the process. I’m angry at status-quo. And it’s my mission in life to change this.
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” —Buckminster Fuller
I intentionally live my life by the beautiful words of Mahatma Ghandi, “You must be the change that you wish to see in the world.” When we truthfully determine what it is that we wish to see in the world, we absolutely must become it – even in the face of adversity. The only way to ever elevate consciousness is to absorb Ghandi’s words into our own hearts and then live, breathe and be those words at all times. That doesn’t mean passively accepting the crap of the world though – he didn’t. What it does mean is acting for change through the pure Essence in our own hearts – just as Kia and Raza did for me. Be the change and then DO the change! We cannot yell at someone and tell them to have compassion. It can only be demonstrated. We must be compassion.
We’re never powerless to make a difference in the world unless we choose that route. We can all be hero’s and leaders when we choose to be. And there’s never a reason to walk past that door of heart-felt opportunity. A true hero or heroine is someone who’s not afraid to care, not afraid to live their compassion and does so expecting nothing in return.
These doors open for us constantly. This is the way of the Universe. Every day, we witness opportunities in our lives to always be more and give more of who we truly are at our core.
If we’re ever to live in a kinder and more compassionate world, we must follow Ghandi’s words. If we want to see more kindness in the world, we must be kindness ourselves. If we want to see more compassion, courage and empathy, we must be those ourselves. We must open our hearts with no barriers to entry. We must dissolve the blocks in our hearts for one another, for animals, for mother nature and, most importantly, for ourselves. We must be the change ourselves before we can ever hope to see change in the world. It was through a random act of kindness by two complete strangers whom I will likely never see again that my hope was restored to believe that there is more change amongst us than we will ever know. And for that, I am both hopeful and grateful.
Gratitude is one of the greatest healers so I will end this post with a public expression of this beautiful feeling.
• I’m so very grateful for the two angels who helped me. Thank you Raza and Kia. I may never see you again, but I will never forget you.
• I’m grateful that there is such enormous good amongst such vast indifference.
• I’m grateful for sanity amongst the smothering insanity in today’s world.
• I’m grateful for my level of health and fitness so that the extent of the injuries wasn’t worse.
• I’m grateful for a higher level of consciousness and the ability to always care.
• I’m grateful for my heart, my soul and my compassionate essence.
• I’m grateful for the words and wisdom of Ghandi. May his inspiration always be in our hearts.
Within each and every one of us is a connected spiritual heart, an eternal soul and the power of an Essential nature that leads us to caring – for all living beings. Let that Essence shine, wear it proudly and always walk through the open door of compassion.