This morning I had to go to the city to drop of rental equipment from a shoot that I did on Friday. I took the L train from Brooklyn and arrived on 14th Street and 6th Avenue around 9 o’clock in the morning. I was very tired since I worked on yesterday’s blog until 2 AM and had to get up at 6 AM to adjust and process the files from Friday’s shoot. One of the great disadvantages of the digital revolution is that besides having to take the pictures you are also have to be your own digital lab technician only to not get paid for it.

When you get to 6th Avenue you have to climb three staircases to get to the street level. When I got to the last set of stairs this elderly woman was walking right in front of me. She was very fragile and could barely put one foot in front of the other but was pulling a big suitcase with wheels behind her.

When I saw her getting close to the stairs I was convinced that there was no way she would make it up the stairs with that suitcase. Right away the thought crossed my mind to help her. In the same moment I felt how tired I was, how heavy my backpack and all that equipment is and that my legs are still weak from the yoga class I took the day before. I also had no time because I had to drop off the equipment and then the disc with the images at my client’s office before 9:30 AM and was already running late. I decided not to be able to deal with it. I was looking for my way out while I was pretending not to see what is going on. I found a second exit, perfect. I made a right turn and kept walking.

I made two more steps and realized I could not do it. I was not able not to help her. I turned around walked up to her and asked her if she needed help. She smiled at me and said, “Yes, this is so sweet of you”. I took her bag and we started our long ascend. It must have taken her five minuets to get up those stairs one step at a time. And I kept on saying, “take your time there is no rush”, and I really meant it. I did not think about the deadline I did what I had to do. When we finally reached street level she gave me another big smile and said, “Thank you and have a beautiful day”. I smiled back saying “my pleasure” and walked off into the usual Monday morning insanity.

Why was I not able to close my eyes and walk by? What did motivate me to help her? What does human beings motivate to help each other? What did motivate Mother Theresa, Gandhi or Jesus to help others? Is there something in it for us or is it part of our innermost being to help when we can? Did I do it because it makes me feel I am a good person or because I am aware that we are all interconnected and helping others is really helping myself? Or do I believe in karma and when I help somebody I create good karma and somebody else will help me? Another reason could be that I don’t feel good about myself and it makes me feel a little better. Or I carry up the suitcase and this beautiful girl walks by and thinks I am a very nice guy and want to go out with me. Why did I do it? Why do people help other people? Why do people sometimes even risk their life’s for somebody they have never met before?

There are many reasons why people help each other. Most of them are selfish. You do something and expect to get help from the person you helped. You do it because you feel important, you are the martyr that people have to look up to for all these things that you have done to help others. Some do it because they believe we are all connected, some because it is good karma and others just because it makes them feel good.

 Why did I do it in this particular case? Why did I forget the mission I was on to help? Will I see this person ever again in my life? That is very unlikely and even if I would run into her again I would probably not recognize her. Obviously she is about 50 years too old for me. Could I have expected to get some money for my help? No. Did I do it because we are all interconnected? No. Did I do it because it is good karma? That did not cross my mind. Did I do it because I do not feel good about myself? I have not had that problem in years. Did I do it to meet a girl who thinks I am a nice guy? I know that girls in New York don’t like nice guys anyway. Why did I do it then?


There is no reason for it. There is nothing I wanted from this woman, nothing I needed from her. I did it because I had to because something in me wants to help when help is needed and does not want anything for it. I believe every human being wants to help even though very often the desire to help is covered by the needs and ideas of the illusionary self that prevents us from expressing it.

A Mother Theresa, a Gandhi, a Jesus had great access to that part of themselves. On a much bigger scale they helped unconditionally because they had to and expected nothing in return.  




“Selflessness” Gandhi Memorial/Union Square/Manhattan/New York 01-28-08 at 10:24 AM.


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