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assy? not assy?

I hadn’t been to this gas station since the guy made me his whore. Yeah. Let me tell you about it, and let’s start as objectively as possible. Pretend I didn’t say “whore.”

I pulled up to a gas station pump on a sunny fall day and filled my tank. Just as I was about to get back in my car, a man in a boxy old-skool sedan at an adjacent pump rolled his window down.

“Miss? I’m disabled, and getting in and out of the car is terribly hard for me. Could you, out of the kindness of your heart, help me out and pump my gas for me?”

My reaction at first was annoyance. Some might say intolerance. I might say that. So, to avoid the sensation of being an intolerant assy bitch, I quickly said, “Yes, yes, of course-“

Bam – his credit card was thrust out the window.

“You sure you trust me?” I joked but didn’t really want to joke, you know, since I was such a bitch.

“Yes, I do. I can see you have a kind heart. You wouldn’t believe how many people don’t,” he said.

Okay. So my gut at this point is tightening up. My head is getting hot. My eyes are narrowed to slits. I am getting all kinds of signals of how assy I am. Or am I? Put down your answer now.

I had stopped at this gas station on my way to a meeting with two people I owe much to, who were helping me build something in my community that could help a lot of people. I was notorious for being late, but in the moments preceding this one, the way I had felt about getting there on time for them was pretty much like having a fucking spotlight shooting straight up out of my head into the heavens. Now imagine that jarring, clunking sound when the stage crew throws all the lighting levers in the theater at the end of a scene. Clunk, man. Fuckin’ clunk.

I finished pumping the man’s gas and returned his card. And I asked him a question.

“What do you normally do when you need gas?”

“All I can do is hope there is still someone out there who has a kind heart,” he said with a pursed-lip smile.

I was mute. And I felt strangely like a whore. Like this 60-something overweight perma-frown man had just done me, while never even unfastening his seatbelt.

I got in my car. I needed to sort out my assy whoriness. This was more than a cut-and-dried case of helping out someone in need, or as we say in yoga, selfless service. It’s often misunderstood as self-sacrificing service, but I like to tell people who will listen to me that it’s really service of all selves. Whuzzat? Sound cray-cray, right? But what if you could serve and receive at the same time? When we give from a place of actually wanting to give, we receive something pretty fucking necessary – a good sense of our own essential, connecting contribution to humanity. It’s good shit, really.

All right, so who is this guy? A disabled man who relegates anyone who will not help him to the status of a cold-hearted, undeniably assy, probably reptilian excuse for a human being. He relies on people’s fear of being classified this way. He chooses to use emotional manipulation of strangers over direct requests of people he knows – or people he could pay to help him. Instead of responsibly planning for his needs, he chooses to demand that others spontaneously sacrifice the responsibilities they have to others. Like, a kind-hearted person is someone who leaves people who are counting on them hanging?

So I was his whore.

Sometimes, in the moment, we don’t recognize that the signals we’re getting are saying something other than, “Look at what a bitch you are!”

Sometimes, in the moment, we don’t recognize that the signals we’re getting are saying something other than, “Look at what a bitch you are!” I mean, they could be saying something beautiful like, “Stop being such a whore!” (Disclaimer #6: Shut up, that is a beautiful message.) My main yoga teacher once posed the following revelatory question to me: Who are you responsible to? Where does your true responsibility lie? Her point: we can’t help everyone – we need to use our time in support of those we’re responsible to.

Yeah, this gets sticky – who. Is it only your family? Probably not. Is it your kid’s PTA? Maybe. Is it the disabled guy who planned responsibly and still ended up needing help? Yes. The only way to know is to determine who counts on you – in a healthy way – to provide something you – not just anyone – are meant to provide. It’s really empowering for both parties when you get it right. Sometimes, it’s general, like helping someone who genuinely needs it when you’re in the right place at the right time. Other times, it’s more specific to what you’re here to do – your unique purpose. To be truly humanitarian, truly in service of others, requires that we do this figuring-out shit for ourselves.

Bring it home, bitches. Then stop whoring around. You’ve got responsibilities.

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