...hears them one at a time and up really, really close.
I keep looking through the sutras to see if there's a Buddhist equivalent to the parable of the Good Samaritan. What I have always found striking about that parable is not that it's a slam against the priests and scribes but that it was given in response to the question, "Who is my neighbor?"
My neighbor is the first person I encounter in need of my assistance. And my assistance to that neighbor, meeting his or her real live-time needs, is what is most required.
The Samaritan does not begin a letter writing campaign for safer highways and byways. The Samaritan does not endow a foundation, build a hostel, or establish a clinic for the care of the many victims of the road. The Samaritan certainly does not pass by the hapless stranger on his way to the ("more important") charitable work of his own picking and choosing.
Chancing upon the victim of the robbers was probably not in the Samaritan's plans for the day, but that didn't matter. There was the situation, and there was only one thing to do. To hell with the plans.
Getting caught up in the victim's blood and dirt was probably not high on the Samaritan's priority list that day, but that didn't matter, either. To hell with the priority list.
I found myself tearing up today over the story of Mychal Judge, the RC priest who died giving aid to the victims of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. What got me was not the 9/11 part of the story but the pre-9/11 part of the story. He was in the South Tower because he had always been where there was a need: among the homeless, among the forgotten, among the outcasts. 9/11 was just another day of more of the same.
He was victim 0001, the first listed among the dead. There's nowhere more Ground 0 than to be the first among the dead.
I became all too aware of the many ways I hold back, all the excuses I make, all the plans and priority lists I create that keep me from jumping right in.
I wish I could describe this ache I sometimes feel, this dull ache of realizing just how far I am from what I know deep down is where I most need to be. I feel it in the gut. I feel it in my arms and legs and head. I feel it one with the breath at the nostrils.