“Imagine a pine tree standing in the yard. If that pine tree were to ask us what it should do, what the maximum is a pine tree can do to help the world, our answer would be very clear: “You should be a beautiful, healthy pine tree. You help the world by being your best.” That is true for humans also. The basic thing we can do to help the world is to be healthy, solid, loving, and gentle to ourselves. Then when people look at us, they will gain confidence. They will say, “If she can do that, I can do that too!” So anything you do for yourself, you do for the world. Don’t think that you and the world are two separate things.”  — Thich Nhat Hanh

During one of our camping trips this summer, we attended a family movie in an outdoor amphitheater. (And if you’ve never seen a movie while real bats are flying across the screen, you should. Really. It’s awesome. All movies are better with live bats flying across the screen. Even Madagascar 3. Just sayin.) Just before the movie started there was an announcement on the PA “a young lady has lost her money in the parking lot. It’s only $28, but it’s all the money she has and it would really mean a lot to her if everyone would keep an eye out for it.” That was it. I remember feeling bad for the “young lady” because the odds of finding $28 in a dark, forested, parking lot were slim-to-none at best.

After the movie, there was one more announcement. “Someone has started a collection to replace the young lady’s $28. If you would like to make a donation, please stop by the concession counter on the way out.” I immediately realized what a brilliant and compassionate idea that was, smacked my head and said “D’oh!” for not thinking of it myself, grabbed some money from my wallet, put my son on my back and made my way to the concession stand while I quickly explained to him what we were doing.

Here’s the thing. By the time I made it to the concession stand in this ity-bity outdoor amphitheater, the concession volunteers were telling people to wait because they were counting the money and they were pretty sure they’d already raised the $28. (Yep, they had).

And here are some more things I realized:

  1. If I’d been the “young lady” it would never have occurred to me to ask for help. Never. Not when I was a young lady and not even now. (Well, maybe now. Just maybe.) I would have definitely beaten myself up for making such a stupid mistake. I would have probably sent myself home as punishment for my stupid mistake because I didn’t have money for the rest of my vacation. She didn’t do that. (Clearly, she is much wiser than me, since I’m still learning this lesson. Sometimes daily.)
  2. She didn’t ask for a donation. She asked for help looking for her money. She trusted that people would want to help her. (Clearly, she was right. I wanted to help and so did everyone else.)
  3. Any one person, including myself, probably could have just donated the entire $28. It wasn’t a huge amount. But it was so much more meaningful and beautiful and heartwarming as I watched the concession volunteers counting pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and dollars – knowing that everyone gave what they could.
  4. That night in the forest, I was surrounded by people being the best “trees” they could be. And probably, people just like that surround me every day and I don’t even realize it. (But now I do. So, thank you.)