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In My Own words

Everything Connected

Katherine Au

(Oct, 2010) I have heard it said that we are all one. No matter where we live, what language we speak, the color of our skin, our religious beliefs, our monetary status, or our family name, no matter who we claim ourselves to be we have no barrier between us and therefore we are all one. I learned this principle in graduate school and I’ve come to discover greater depths of this principle, as I’ve gotten older.

For my birthday I was given a gift this year from my parents a trip to New York City. It was this trip that solidified the concept of oneness for me more fully. I had only been to the city twice before. Once as a little girl when there was time before my flight to Europe one morning when my father took me to Rockefeller Center around the holidays and I saw the glorious tree and the skating rink. Then, the second time was when I was working in California on the team that was overseeing the company’s Annual Report. Our team was designated with flying in the night before our meeting, having a morning meeting, and then flying out just two hours after our meeting was scheduled to end back to California. Neither trips before left me with any sense of what New York City was or a sense of oneness.

This trip was started with a train ride from Washington, DC to NYC. We arrived just after midnight one night and then made our way to our hotel. We were lucky enough to stay near Union Square and the next morning began the tourist trip we had planned. The first day was filled with museums – MOMA, Met, Natural History – all were wonderful places to visit and all held a surprise that I didn’t expect.

The second day was filled with visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island first, then Ground Zero and the tribute center to Ground Zero, then a walk up Broadway to Soho before taking the Subway to Times Square before taking the Subway back to Union Square and our hotel.

It wasn’t just the tourist parts that made me think of us being all one. It was the experiences in the tourist places that reminded me of this concept. The whole time I was in New York City I was struck by how no matter how far away we may live or no matter how different our lives may be we are truly one.

We each need to eat. We each need shelter. We each need our thirst quenched. We each are not as different from each other than we might think. I saw the New Yorkers, the foreigners, the tourist’s travel amongst her streets and in her museums and I was moved by how closely we all are connected. We separate ourselves continuously here and there by this and that, but we truly have no separation. We are all connected, if only by the fact that we are human.

It was the third day that my father reminded me of the true connection of oneness. My mother and I went shopping and my father was tasked with meeting us for lunch at Whole Foods in Union Square. It was him that reminded me more than anything of a unity to that which we don’t even know.

My father remembered an experience of his many years ago when we where in New York City recently and mentioned an experience years ago that he wanted to share. And, so the next few words are his:

"The warm breath of American Social History wafted over me acutely and poignantly as my senses became aware of seeing something more than simply what looked upon waiting for my wife and daughter across from Union Square in New York City. I was passing the time people watching. I was vaguely aware of a bus coming to a stop in the background and people entering. There was nothing unusual about that. Simply background awareness as another bus, then another and one after another until about the fifth or so stopped. As the fifth or sixth bus stopped, I became aware of the same repetition for each one…and the warm breath hit me…the penetration of consciousness with recognition and then the "aha" of the breath of full awareness as the thought flashed through my being…I know where that came from…I know the person who made that happen…her life and efforts 30 years ago made possible an occurrence so acceptable today as to almost make it unrecognizable. Maggie Kuhn had done that. Maggie Kuhn and her Grey Panthers accomplished that.

What had registered was that the buses were all kneeling to make it easier for elderly and everyone else to step on. Something all large metropolitan city buses do now, but 40 years ago, something no buses did until the Grey Panthers campaigned for it among other things to raise consciousness for the plight of the elderly in those day where many subsisted on dog food to survive.( Maggie was named Humanitarian of the Year in 1978 and a PBS documentary of her work was made called, "Maggie Growls.")

I had known her for a brief period when she spoke at a conference in California and remained for a few days. My wife and I were her transportation for the time she was in the LA area and took her wherever she wanted to go. It was in those times of travel that we came to know an almost frail but fiercely keen and gracious fighter who was politely astute. She left a memorable impression on me as a person of depth and of the few public figures that one would want in their life boat. I had not thought of her a whole lot since 1974 but in that moment on the streets of New York City as I became aware of the bus kneeling…I found myself looking directly into her face and knew I was touched again by the continuation of that energy encountered in person those many years ago. The warmth radiate as I saw the kneeling of the bus become within me a salute to her soul."

My father had such an experience event before I was born. My experience is knowing that my time on earth is connected to my mother and father’s and that although I will never meet Maggie Kuhn I will always be connected with her through my parent’s connection. And, although, I wasn’t a part of busses lowering for passengers I will always be a part of that process. Furthermore, it is my part in this life to be a part of other firsts or important aspects of this life. That is not to say that I think myself important but rather I think myself responsible to carry out whatever aspect of duty that could be important for the duty of our oneness. We, as Americans, are not a people governed by a crown or dictatorship, we are a people governed by a democracy. We are those who say to our governing body yes or no, and that is an unusual choice of words given to most governing bodies across this globe.

I don’t pretend to be a part of a country that doesn’t have it’s own skeletons to hide. But, I do say I am a citizen of a country that welcomes more than any other country. I, as an American, am fortunate enough to be a part of a country that allows for me to see my neighbor as an ally and friend of myself. He or she could come from any other place on this planet, but he or she is my equal – as we are all one.

Read other articles by Katherine R. Au