The world is full of people with good intentions. Good intentions do not make a difference to our journey. Action does.
Years ago, sitting in a coffee shop by myself, I saw a young woman seated by herself at another table. She wasn’t doing anything in particular. Just sitting there, staring silently into the distance, occasionally wiping away a tear that had escaped her eyes and was running down her cheek.
I thought of going over to offer her a kleenex. Or to at least ask if she needed anything. Could I help?
I remember feeling uncomfortable. What if she got angry with me for my advances? What if she told me to mind my own business?
I did nothing.
I have carried my sense of regret of having done nothing in that moment with me since that day.
More recently, while walking at the park, I met a woman walking without a dog, who stopped to get her ‘puppy fix’ as we passed. I noticed she was crying.
Carrying the memory of that moment from long ago, I asked her if there was anything I could do. “You look sad,” I said.
“I am”, she blurted out. And she told me of the divorce she’s going through with her husband of many years. “I just feel so lost and lonely,” she said.
She shared a bit more and then, as we parted I asked if she would like a hug. She began to shake her head from side to side, and stopped. She nodded her head up and down. “Yes. Please.” she said quietly.
And we hugged. As we parted ways and walked in opposite directions, she called back. “Thank you!”
It was just a moment. But in that moment, we connected as humans connect when they take time to see one another, and stand together, heart to heart.
If I had noticed her tears and only thought about how sad she looked, and not taken action to create more of what I want in the world around me — peace and harmony — then I would have felt the regret of doing nothing.
That woman still had to face the sadness of her divorce, her sense of loss, her fears of being suddenly alone in her mid-life. But for that moment, she felt a sense of ease. Less alone. More connected.
Taking action doesn’t mean we change someone else’s path. It just means while on our own path, we do not have to carry the regret of doing nothing.