One Shoe

1935. India. Mahatma Gandhi rushed into a railroad terminal to catch a train. He was late. And as he ran, the train began to move out of the station. Gandhi raced and grabbed the railing on the last car. And pulled himself up. But just as he stepped on board, the sandal of one foot fell off — and landed between the tracks.

QUESTION: Did Gandhi jump off the train to retrieve the sandal (and then try to make it back on the train)? Or did he shrug – and step inside the railroad car with one bare foot? What would you do?

It really is a trick question. Gandhi did neither. Instead, he quickly removed the sandal on the other foot and lobbed it into the center of the tracks — near the one that had fallen. An acquaintance who was already on board the train asked why he had thrown his other sandal. Gandhi replied that he was hoping that the person who found the first would find the second — and have a fine new pair of sandals.

This is an example of what might be called “creative compassion” — an ability to help others in ways that may not be so obvious. It is stories like this that give credence to the idea that we may not be able to change the world — but we may be able to change the world of another human being. The biggest thing we might do on any given day is simply to do an act of kindness, of compassion or of love — to another person.

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