Sometimes while I ride the subway I try to look at each person and imagine what they look like to someone who is totally in love with them. I think everyone has had someone look at them that way, whether it was a lover, or a parent, or a friend, whether they know it or not. It’s a wonderful thing, to look at someone to whom I would never be attracted and think about what looking at them feels like to someone who is devouring every part of their image, who has invisible strings that are connected to this person tied to every part of their body. I think this fun pastime is a way of cultivating compassion. It feels good to think about people that way, and to use that part of my mind that I think is traditionally reserved for a tiny portion of people I’ll meet in my life to appreciate the general public. I wish I thought about people like this more often. I think it’s the opposite of what our culture teaches us to do. We prefer to pick people apart to find their flaws. Cultivating these feelings of love or appreciation for random people, and even for people I don’t like, makes me a more forgiving and appreciative person toward myself and people I love. Also, its just a really excellent pastime.
This is Chester. When I was in Afghanistan I got a care package from one of those “Adopt a Soldier” programs that lets families send care packages to service men and women who are deployed overseas. Anyway, I got this care package, and it came with the usual stuff: Baby wipes, crackers, peanut butter, the Dad threw in a pack of cigarettes, and there was some jerky. But there was also a little beanie baby gold fish and a hand written note from a 7 year old girl that said
“Dear Soldier, (I wasn’t even mad)
I hope you are doing well. I’m sorry you have to miss thanksgiving with your family. This is my friend Chester. He keeps me safe from monsters, but I think you need him more than I do. I hope he keeps you safe from the monsters you’re fighting. Take good care of him for me”.
You bet your ass that little fish was in my pocket every time I went on patrol.