Attachment, Joy, and Chocolate Ice Cream – by Ben Carrettin
While visiting with family in Bay Village, Ohio I was witness to a simple yet most profound gesture of kindness. I was standing in line with my 5 year old daughter at an ice cream shop called the Honey Hut tucked inside a beautiful neighborhood park on the shore of the lake. The gentleman in front of us had ordered a chocolate ice cream cone – my daughter’s absolute favorite, which she too was waiting to get. As he turned around, she exclaimed, “That looks like the best tasting chocolate ice cream ever!”. To which the man replied with a smile, “It really is” and promptly gave her his cone and walked away. This delighted my daughter to no end – not just the chocolate ice cream, but that a “big person” had confirmed her suspicions that this cone, this very one, was indeed the “best” ever and that she had been given the prize. Later that afternoon, I happened upon the same gentleman, still in the park, with a large group I can only assume were friends and family. I thanked him and was about to muddle the event with too much talk – when he softly stated, “The joy of getting the ice cream is better than actually having it. But giving it to someone else is even better. I was happy to get the ice cream – and she was happy to get it too, which made me even happier. All that joy for the price of one cone, seemed like a bargain to me”.
Upon reflection it struck me that so much had happened in this event and that I was moved by it, greatly. Sure, generosity, delighting in a child’s joy, spontaneous giving – they’re all there. But there is more. The Buddhist ideas on non-attachment and this man’s comment that the desire was more than the actual having. He had great clarity of self and was aware of at just what point he found the most joy. He saw in the moment that someone else would equally, if not more so, experience that joy. So, without hesitation – he acted to share that experience. When I spoke with him, it was also clear to me that this man was not trying to just make happiness – he was in fact cultivating it; both for himself and an another; in the world.
This may sound like I am making it a much bigger deal than it is – but I would suggest there is no big or small in it, just a simple act of goodness for it’s own sake – cultivating happiness for one’s self and the world. The experience has made me more conscious of late of all the little moments, the little opportunities I have every day to stop thinking, planning, or contemplating a better life – and actually engage in the practice of giving of what I have. Whether it’s the 30 seconds it takes to bring my neighbor’s trash cans up for them, an extra minute or two of tickle-time with the kids, being patient with a harried checkout girl at the grocery, or taking the time to compliment a co-worker – it really doesn’t matter. Oh wait, yes it does! As much as raindrops make an ocean – every act of kindness moves us all towards a better life. Take the time to look at your day – see all the moments you have walked through, but perhaps not truly been present for. This is life – a precious series of moments that move in and out like waves on the shore. Take it from me, that “I’ll get to it” list never gets gotten to – it really doesn’t. Live fully, now, in the moment – soak it in every day.
Whatever my schedule, my obstacles, my obligations – there is always room for one act of kindness. Commit it to habit. Do it daily – it’s good for us and the rest of the world too. Remember, in the time it takes to ponder an excuse – you could be doing it. You could be living.
I’m ready for some chocolate ice cream.