There’s a parable I remember but I can’t seem to find its source online, so if you find it or know it, let me know. I think it involved a Buddhist, but also maybe not.
One day a Buddhist woke up and found that his bedroom was a mess, so he fixed his room. When he stepped out into his apartment, he noticed that it was a mess. So, he fixed his apartment. Then he stepped out of his apartment to fix the world.
You make a difference in the world by starting from your immediate environment, according to the parable. You don’t have to start big, it’s saying.
In 2013, I was waiting for the metro one morning so I can go to my French class, where I would learn just enough to get by in Montreal.
As I stood by the rails and that metro came to a stop, there was a woman inside the carriage, she was maybe my age, and she made long eye contact with me through the window until the metro came to a halt, when she stepped.
I got shy. I’m not used to making long eye contact with people, and definitely not someone doing that to me.
When the door opened and she stepped out, she smiled at me. A big, genuine smile, I smiled back, and we passed each other as I got into the car and she left to her anonymity.
As the doors of the metro closed, I was still smiling big.
Inside the carriage, I looked up and noticed a man sitting across from me. He was looking at me and smiled back. He smiled because he saw my big smile. Then the lady next to him smiled at me too.
A few moments later, a few other people inside the carriage were smiling at each other.
“Whoever that woman was who smiled at me,” I thought to myself, “she has passed that smile onto so many other strangers.” A single smile doubled and quadrupled inside the metro. One act of kindness that made a carriage worth’s of change.
She was the Buddhist monk on her way out of her apartment to change the world.