Stories of Kindness from Around the World

All It Takes Is A 10 Second Thought

--by PS, posted Sep 7, 2010

I've been so inspired by everyone's thoughts and reflections that I thought I'd take the plunge and continue a recent practice of stepping out of my comfort zone and sharing this story.

Last Friday, I was coming home late after spending time with friends andthought I'd go down to the $.99 cent pizza place.  On the way, I saw a man sitting on a random stoop.  I'd seen him before, panhandling on the stairs I walk up every day as I leave the subway running late to work, but this time I had no place to rush off to.  There was something about him, a quiet and serene demeanor, different from many of the other homeless people I had seen in NYC.  I walked past him, went to the pizza place, and those 10 seconds waiting in line was enough to practice stepping outside of my usual, familiar flow.  So with a few slices in hand, I went back to join him.  I asked him if he was hungry.  He said yes, but not for pizza because it gave him acidity.  He'd rather have a few bucks for chicken and rice since it was easier on his stomach.
It's funny, in that moment, he became more real to me.  This nebulous silhouette I had seen almost every day was some body with specific conditions, needs, and experiences.  We exchanged names and ended up talking for a little over an hour that night as Kevin told me stories from his life, how he had done things when "he was younger and didn't know any better" and how he tried to make amends but too much time had elapsed.  He shared his views on the value for young adults of various ethnicities to learn the history of their people.
There was one story he told me that stuck with me, it was a story of an Indian Mohawk chief (in the early 1800's) whose warriors had captured four African mercenaries whose reputation for slaughtering Mohawks was legendary.  As they approached the chief to receive their final judgement, they thought they were goners for sure from the howls of punishment they heard.  However the Chief simply reminded them of their own displacement from their own families and that they are simply doing onto others as had been done to themselves.  They had become products of their own environments and neglected to think about their own humanity.  It was then they understood the depth of what they had done.  The Chief saw from the tears rolling down their eyes, some awareness had emerged and let them go to share their stories with other mercenaries.  
Kevin admired how the Chief saw the good in them, saw their humanity, and knew in his deep wisdom that it was the circumstances of their experience that shaped their violent personas.  Deep down they were good human beings capable of much more.  He talked about his one wish being in this 60's before he leaves this earth, which is to share his story with youth and young adults so they could avoid the mistakes he went through.  We also ended up talking about spirituality and other mystical experiences that if it were anyone else they would've thought we were crazy, with prefaces like "I can't believe I'm actually telling you this Parth", lol.  Throughout the conversation, he eventually got his chicken and rice and gifted me a single long stem rose he had been carrying.  Shortly afterwards, I made my way home, thinking to myself, "I met an amazing homeless person".
This morning, who did I see again on the stairs leaving the subway, none other than Kevin.  I said hello, shook his hand and kept walking.  Another 10 second thought - "wait that's my friend Kevin".  I usually stop by a bagel place on my way to work, and counting the last $7 dollars I had to last me until the end of the week, I debated.  "How are even $6 going to last me the next 4 days?"  Then arose yet another 10 second thought - "are my circumstances shaping my experience of supporting a friend?" I couldn't help but get two.  I walked back to where he was and asked him if he'd like a sesame bagel. He smiled, shook my hand, and we wished each other a good day.
It is through Kevin, the Chief's wisdom still lives and I'm curious where the next 10 second thought will lead. :)


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Readers Comments

Thaata wrote: A few seconds all it takes to change ourselves to be human beings. Our existence is meaningful only when another person is made happy because of us. Thanks for sharing the story.
Olga wrote: What an enspiring story, life is about making a difference
ahmed wrote: Researchers have measured significant improvements in working memory and attention after lumosity training.
Zevelina wrote: I simply love the 10 second thought effect! Your story is so simple, but soooo deep!
PS wrote: @luv4all: thank you for your inspirational note :)

@iferlamb: thanks and actually an amazing gesture for him too. I notice sometimes that i'm more apt to taking help from strangers then perhaps those who are closer to me for fear or shame. So for him to let me in after a long period of getting to know each other was in and of itself an act of generosity.

@jjw: "ten second thoughts" it thinks an opportunity to personally engage in your own experiment of (fill in the blank)? :) for me, periodically throughout the day, i try to notice my thoughts - usually they're relevant to what i might be dealing with, but the unconscious mind is processing everything all the time, sights, sounds, thoughts, feelings, textures, etc. By taking as little as 10 secs to "tune in" you'll actually amaze yourself at the thoughts are completely unrelated to the present, but have a deeper texture. Thinking + taking some action, practices the muscle of connecting to your intuitive self.
bookworm58 wrote: The ten second thought is a wonderful thing. Can we make a difference in someones life if we just give ourselves 10 seconds to think of someone else? I enjoyed this story and will do what i can to make a difference in someones life.
JJW wrote: Hello,

Could someone please explain this "ten second thought" process-- is there an article, link? Sounds good!
ivo wrote: I share these stories with my children. They enjoy when we sit down and read these experiences out loud.
luv4all wrote: Hi ps,
You are on your way, great going. You have started entertaining the 10 sec thoughts, you shall get plenty of them now.

You have connected with kevin and made him feel good. Not sure how many problems he may have seen to reach his state. Be sure, you have made him feel like a human and believe in humanity, this is really something great.

Thank you for sharing and hope your insights and sharing shall grow more and more each day.

melesai wrote: Wow you never know a persons story we all have one. You got a special person with wisdom to sahre and now you have sahres them with us. All that for a chicken dinner. Bravo!

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