I was tying the Xmas tree to my roof when a co worker of mine drove up and got out of her car. After the obligated pleasantries; she asked if she could help me tie the tree down. I said that I was fine and that the way I tie it; it would be quite easy to do alone. She said, but it might be easier to do with two people since I could throw the line to her over the tree.
I, once again, declined her offer and jokingly explained that over the years I have watched the guys do it alone and quite securely. She finally relented and went on into the store. I have to add that during the time I was securing the tree, I received several inquiries as to whether it would hold and several looks of doubts. (Oh, the tree did make it safely to my home.) At the time, the moment had no significance. Afterwards, I started to think about that little exchange. A little over a year ago, this co-worker lost her 20 -something son to an accident. He was hit by a car while skateboarding and died; only a few blocks from where I live.
I realized that her offer was not just about wanting to help me, but to help herself connect to someone she knows, me; to a young man, like her son; to do some ritual during the holidays; perhaps as a remembered ritual she may have shared with her son; with someone who was in close proximity to the last place her son was alive. And perhaps even more connections that I’m unaware of. I felt awful; as I still do ,a little, even now, that I did see that the moment was not so much about me doing this task by myself, for myself; but was more about doing something for her. It just reminded me that sometimes the need of the other; even unknown to us, is greater than our own needs. And that often it does not matter if we know what that need is; simply that there is a need that should be honored, when possible; especially when it cost us so little. This “giving action” is at the essence of Taoist thought; I think.