The morning our Pharmacist dispensed Transcendence…
Rick and I differ on how we like to spend our weekend mornings.
I’m an artisan type; getting up early to read and write (ok, more reading than writing) savoring the hours before anyone else gets up so I can enjoy my ‘nothing-ism’ alone, in my PJ’s, sipping coffee. My happy place.
Rick, on the other hand, tackles Saturday mornings like a warrior preparing for battle. Once his feet hit the floor, my peaceful procrastination ends with his need for productivity.
One Saturday morning he was up earlier than usual, I hadn’t finished covering the political highlights (aka: Seth Myers and SNL) and he had already stomped down the stairs and was banging around in our kitchen (think Bam Bam).
Rick does everything with the same determination and urgency; whether that’s coaching teams to victory or getting a spoon from a drawer. That morning felt like we were on The Amazing Race when he announced a detailed game plan on how we’d complete ‘our’ (his) to do list before noon, inclusive of a stop to a pharmacy for our annual flu shot.
I winced at the thought of a sore arm at the gym later, but more, at the thought of a rushed morning when all I wanted to do was navel gaze.
Begrudgingly, I got dressed and with having been given a full 5 minutes to get ready, pulled on ‘work out’ gear to hit the gym later.
So, away we went, squeezing as many errands as was possible in less and less time. I will admit that my mood lightened when Rick told me we’d be visiting Akil’s pharmacy for our flu shot. Akil was an influential Independent Pharmacist and a genuinely kind hearted guy (when we first moved to Toronto Akil whispered a ‘heads up’ on where I could find the best shopping in the city – you never forget people like that ;- )
We arrived at the Pharmacy and were surprised a crowd had already gathered. Akil’s team was incredibly welcoming and had the place buzzing with clowns, face painters, balloons, coffee, cake… Rick had failed to mention that this flu clinic was a special one; exclusive for refugees with special guests invited like politicians, key business owners, immigration stakeholders, community leaders and representatives from all levels of government.
We were ushered into the swell of the gathering and I was soon exchanging a firm handshake with the impeccably dressed Federal Minister of Immigration in my Under Armour Leggings….
I shot Rick an “I promise to hurt you when this is over” look to which he merely shrugged an apologetic “I didn’t realize it was going to be this big so roll with this” look back at me.
My insecurity turned to horror when I caught a glimpse of the Global News team setting up to film for national television.
That was it, I was far too vain (shallow?) to be photographed looking like I was there for a makeover at the beauty counter or directions to the nearest GoodLife. I hid amid the feminine protection isle where I found myself nose to nose with a refugee watching his son get his face painted.
With a Kotex backdrop, we engaged in conversation and I said something about how crazy popular flu shots seem to be so early on a Saturday. To which this super friendly, soft spoken man said “yes, popular, but you need to understand, too, that it’s Akil who is popular, we’re here to show him how supportive we are”. He spoke with emotion as he went on to tell me how much he appreciated all that Akil had done to bring his family to Canada; the sponsorship, the paperwork, the immigration details, the incredible follow up over years and most of all how well he treated his family (and so many other families) through the process. While he didn’t share the graphic details surrounding the circumstances his family had been through, he didn’t need to, the anguish on his face had said it all.
I followed his gaze over to Akil (who was being swarmed by admirers) and in a trance-like tone, began to speak as if it didn’t matter if I was listening:
“Akil is a Saint in our eyes, he’s done so much when he didn’t have to that it hurts me to say that I’ll never, ever be able to repay him….”
I watched Akil with the fascination a child would watch Santa; he had a special appreciative grin on his face and was taking delight in watching ‘his’ families run around with balloon animals, getting their arms punctured and chatting it up over coffee and cake.
While I’m sure Akil was proud of his accomplishment, after all, it wasn’t every day when you rescue entire families from atrocities; but it wasn’t the look of pride on his face.
It was a sort of blissful contentment. It’s like he had just received an incredible gift, but the reality was that he had just GIVEN one (and many, for that matter). But, I guess what I witnessed was one of those moments when we’ve given something that made us happier to give than the receiver was to receive.
You remember…. those magical times when you were so excited for someone to see what you bought them you were bursting at the seams; hopping from one foot to the other, biting down on your lip, practically grabbing the gift from them so you could unwrap it quicker for them! Then, finally, you get that incredible rush when you watch their face light up and an incredible after glow settles over you.
That’s what it was: Akil had the “after glow” from the spirit of giving. And it was contagious. So contagious, that it lifted me out of my self-absorbed thinking and I fought my way back through the crowd just in time for the pictures… what I looked like no longer mattered.
Forget dopamine, serotonin, Oxycontin and all those other neurochemicals I regularly write about ….this was the mother load of “neuro-highs”. This must be what Abraham Maslow meant when he came up with ‘Transcendence’ his ‘top tier’ in his Hierarchy of Needs model; the level he called ‘metaneeds’ when we get past ourselves and feel the need to help others.
Perhaps the recent trending in bucket lists will shift from what we need to SEE and DO before we die, to what we need to FEEL and BE to access the full range of our humanness. Maybe spiritual fulfillment doesn’t have to come from a denomination or from diving deeper into ourselves with meditative mantras but rather, it’s helping out others in need.
Seems that if helping others with their basic needs (the bottom tiers of Maslow’s chart) can allow still others to fulfill their ‘transcendence’ needs (top) then, maybe, with more connection there is hope for our planet’s overall needs right now.
We’ll need more of us to operate at a higher frequency and learn from those who already do. From what I could tell from that morning, Akil is one of them.
We were silent leaving the pharmacy but once back in the vehicle we blurted out a ‘wow” in unison. The rest of our ‘to do’ list and getting to the gym didn’t happen and we spent the drive back discussing how we can “give back”. We laughed at what Akil’s reaction might be if we started to visit his Pharmacy every Saturday morning.
Maybe, when it comes to how we’d like to spend our weekend mornings, Rick and I aren’t that different after all.