I recently wrote about “luxury” and its place (or, perhaps, misplacement) in real estate marketing. I was fumbling with the notion that it’s insensitive to uphold the attainment of luxury as a worthy life goal.
The comments I received were thoughtful and supportive. I was happy to learn some others share my view. Yet much of my writing now strikes me as hypocritical and guilt-trippy.
What I mean to say is I’m not yet trading my real estate practice for a life of service to the poor:
- I’m touring $2 million condos with my clients and then posting a video about Syrian refugees on Facebook.
- I’m writing an offer on a Pacific Heights house and then snapping a photo of a homeless person asleep against the fence around a future multi-million-dollar development site.
- I’m leaving my car at home and taking the J-train downtown to show property and feeling solidarity with my fellow riders – many of whom ride MUNI because they can’t afford any other choice.
- I’m stopping by Target to pick up a cute, “cheap” $50 vest I saw online and noticing the tired-looking mom in her janitor’s uniform digging for one more dollar to complete her purchase of diapers at the checkstand.
As you know, I could go on and on. Down through the layers of suffering from horrific and unthinkable to ordinary and every-day. There is suffering of every type and scope and it lives everywhere on the planet. It’s entirely unique for each person and it’s entirely universal at the same time.
Which is why lately I’ve been reading and re-reading Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem called Kindness. In a world full of suffering it’s hard to know where to even begin. So, I take heart from the wise advice that kindness and compassion begin with noticing. Noticing and then understanding, as she writes, “That this could be you.”
Go about your business. Feed your children. Find your joy. But don’t forget to SEE the suffering. SEE the toothless woman begging for drug money outside Macy’s as you head in to pick up some last-minute Christmas gifts before meeting friends for dinner.
Seeing can lead to compassion, and compassion can ease suffering. There will never be an end to it, but there can always be a beginning. Let’s begin now?