Sitting Outside, Looking In

I sit on the patio chairs with a smoothie outside Nature’s Fare. Across the parking lot way I see two young girls in a car. Their dad left just a moment ago to go into Nature’s Fare. I sit and watch the girls. The younger one in the backseat begins to cry. Why? The heat? Backseats of cars are usually pretty hot. They’ve got the windows open. I figure their dad will be back relatively quickly and they’ll make it. The sister in front, a couple years older, gets upset with the crying, which when I first heard it I thought of trying to imitate it, because it sounded pretty cool. The sister starts to get agitated and she turns around in her seat telling her sister something like, “I can give you candy. I can give you it.” Then, she turns back to her seat, facing forward. Again, this time kneeling over the back of her seat she says, “You can have cereal! Dad’s getting cereal. I was just kidding.” At least that’s what I can make of it. She turns back and the crying continues.

I wonder if the dad is going to be back soon. I feel the impermanence of the situation and I am content knowing that these two sisters will probably be playing together tomorrow and that tantrums are seldom about the things we think they’re about. What is this younger girl crying about? Not having cereal, the heat, or something else completely? Perhaps she just feels the tension from her sister and it’s making her tense, hence, cry more. The front seat girl is now ‘Wahh-ing,’ mocking her sister. Then, she begins to cover her ears and yell out a type of birthday tune to stand above her sister’s cries. I’m laughing now. Very entertaining, as I still see the impermanence of it. I think of going over to mention to them how impermanent their fight is or simply asking, “Do you love your sister?” Perhaps a reminder of their true connection could dissipate the fight, but I remain seated, watching these thoughts as well as the situation.

I see a lady dangling a baby with one hand and talking in her cellphone in the other. The girl in the front seat covers the mouth of her younger sister, reaching over the back seat, trying to get her to stop crying. Clearly, this only makes her more upset. It only stops the crying for the moment she has her hand there, which isn’t long. The lady with the baby notices the kids as she stands next to her car with her side door open. She looks upset and as she talks on the phone, looking at the kids, I assume she’s talking about them. I see her take down the father’s serial number off his car. She takes a bottle of water from her van and brings it to the child in the backseat, saying a word or two to the older sister.

Their dad comes out of the grocery store and makes his way to his car. He doesn’t say anything to the lady standing by his daughters and his car, but opens his back trunk and throws a bag or two in. The lady doesn’t look at him, but walks back to her van. They’re very hostile towards each other. He gets in his car after saying something to his daughter in the passenger seat and starts the car. He drives off, passed the lady’s car as she fastens her baby into the back seat. They still don’t look at each other and as he tries to escape the situation quickly he almost hits another car that is turning out of the parking lot. The lady with the baby is outraged now, visibly. Some people passing by see her in this state and they ask what’s wrong. She tells them about this man who left his two year old in the back seat and explains that she took his license plate number and called the cops on him. She says the kid’s face was red and dry from the heat. One of the others says, “Good for you,” and gives her a hug.

Reflecting on this, I was very curious about it all. There’s a lot that we can leave out, or that people generally forget about. The impermanence of a childish feud between two sisters was obvious and even the father going in the store for a bit. That lady was so upset, and as well as the dad when he noticed her there and the girl in the front seat about her sister’s crying. In that scene, nobody understood impermanence. I, as the witness, seemed to have had a grasp of it and stayed with my sensations as I watched. I had thoughts in taking part in it, but I didn’t. From my view, I couldn’t tell just how old the child in the backseat was. Perhaps she did need some water or she had a real need for something, perhaps not. If I did take part, I would have done it with more ease and actually communicated with the father when he came back out of the car instead of being hostile to him, yet was there a reason to approach it on any level?

Once on metta day I saw a couple guys and girls eating together. I went up and told them about the segregation during meals. They just laughed and blew me off. I told them again, and this time they said, “Oh okay, sure,” that sort of thing, but they kept doing it. I told the management and he finally got them to separate. Another time in group metta during a service period, the assistant teacher told us that the third time you want something to be done, you should always ask yourself, “why is this so important to me?” Why is this bothering me so much? Look inside and see what sensations you’re feeling if you’re not already with them. If that lady looked inside, would she have acted in the same way? As I observed all this turmoil I just stayed within. It’s all passed now, as it is doing, but it was certainly a curious thing. ‘Should’ I have done different?

The next day I was walking home and I saw a girl across the street at the bus stop. She was cursing, “That’s great, just f***ing great.” She missed the bus and was upset about it. I thought about this incident with the kids the day before and then I yelled at her from across the road, “It’s impermanent!”

“What?!” She called back after a moment’s hesitation.

“It’s impermanent! It’s changing! You’ll be happy tomorrow!” I yelled.

She paused taking this in and as I kept walking she called out, “I hope so…!”

There was a little more hope in her answer than there was in her previous cursing. I don’t know when it’s appropriate to approach situations. Hopefully we take the opportunities we get to try both options. To just sit back and observe it and be equanimous with its change, or to call out at it with this same understanding.

“It’s changing!”

In either case it’s good to look inside and ask ourselves, “how important is it?”  Ultimately if we take part or don’t, that is our part in it and it is passing.

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