When I was in high school, my dad imprinted me with something that I had no way of realizing the impact of at the time.

His words, something like ‘Bear (what he calls me to this day), you should try to be friends with the people who are different from you. They need friends as much as anyone else.’

Now if you will allow yourself a flashback to high school- sorry, I know that might not be how you wanted to start your day- but to make my point, I don’t think many of us remember trying to play the ‘make friends with everyone’ game. I would imagine many of you felt the way I did… its a dog-eat-dog world! I spent much of my high school career trying to socially keep up with forever changing popularity trends and gossip channels that made me feel like perhaps I was surviving, when really, I was drowning… just slowly enough that it didn’t feel like it… everyday. Especially as a young woman, I found it very challenging to be at the right place, at the right time, with the right outfit and the right people, so to speak. Nonetheless, I introduced myself to the ‘different girl’. We ate lunch together several times and went our separate ways. I like to believe that we knew each other well enough that she remembers me as well as I remember her.

Looking back now at the posse I ran with for most of my time in high school, we were the offbeat kids. We were just different enough that we didn’t fit in to the ‘popular club’, but seemed normal enough to avoid the ‘different kids’.

Now before this all gets any more cliche- the point.

Since high school, I’ve been open to making friends with whomever steps on to my path. Since college My Path has been largely guided by yoga teachers and meditation studies, spiritual wanderings etc. About six years ago I started an exploration of Buddhism. A teacher of mine suggested I try Tonglen and a Loving Compassion Meditation. Since then a large part of my meditation practice has been centered around compassion, understanding compassion and empathy, living compassion and empathy.

So the other day I drew a connection between what this meditation has shown me, and what my dad was trying to teach me so many years ago. He didn’t say ‘Bear, feel sorry for everyone and give them a friend.’ No, he said ‘everyone deserves a friend.’ In many fewer words he was trying to get me to see that everyone has a story, and we usually don’t know it, but that regardless of that story we are all deserving of connection. See people as yourself, treat people as you want to be treated. Be compassionate.

Now all of this has me thinking… is my Dad a reincarnation of the Buddha??? (He does have a round belly… love you Dad!)