Note: This article first appeared on elephantjournal.com here.
Have you ever met someone who seemed too cool, beautiful or popular to be your friend?
I became friends recently with a person like this. It has become a lesson in learning how treat and relate with people in general.
It’s an interesting feeling to be honored to be someone’s friend and to really cherish a friendship. A really good feeling, actually.
After feeling this way for a while, I started to look at how I feel towards other people in my life—friends, co-workers, etc. I’ve noticed a wide range of feelings in other relationships: affection, wanting to keep someone at arm’s length, judgments about intelligence and personality, and so on.
When I was a kid my grandpa taught me how to play golf. I used to get upset and have a bad time if I wasn’t playing as well as I thought I should have been. My grandpa told me that it was a special gift for someone to give their afternoon or day—their time—to me and that I should respect that and be grateful for it.
I’ve always remembered that lesson, but I don’t always think of it. But, since noticing my feelings in these different relationships I’ve begun to try to extend that feeling of cherishing and honoring to everyone in my life. When at work, or with family, it may not be the case that someone has given their time to be with me, especially, but for whatever reason our paths have crossed and an opportunity to be with that person has arisen.
In Shambhala we believe that the basis of people, and all things, is a quality of being complete, worthy and unblemished. We call this basic goodness and although someone may have come to possess large amounts of confusion, aggression, etc., this basic goodness is still there shining behind the clouds.
This is what we are coming back to through our meditation practice. And that is the experience that we can share with others, and also see and touch in others.
Having an intention to cherish all of our relationships and encounters brings out the best in ourselves and the other person we are engaging with. I’ve noticed how people relax and become more comfortable and kind, just by simple gestures of caring and listening, of being mindful to realize the rare and special chance to touch someone’s life.
It isn’t really that hard to be kind, but the effects of doing so may be exponentially powerful. It’s easy to offer someone a cup of tea when you’re making one for yourself, to offer to share you food with a friend, or to simply ask someone how they are doing—because you genuinely care and want to know.
It seems to be a lack of perspective to not realize how short and fleeting are our lives and how big of an impact we have on our world with our words and actions.
Everyone deserves to be honored and cherished; everyone is basically good.
“May no one who encounters me ever have an insignificant contact.” ~ Shantideva