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Buddhism in the News


Friday, June 29, 2007


Yesterday I had such a rewarding, touching and profound experience. I went with my father to volunteer at a community kitchen in the basement of a downtown Presbyterian church that offers free meals to those who need them. I helped out in the kitchen preparing the food and then was stationed out in the dining room to offer people something to drink. I then went around and asked people if they wanted refills of their drinks.

It was a great chance to give back to the community and meet some really wonderful people that have fallen on hard times.

In Buddhism we speak of dana (giving) and perhaps what comes to mind at first is a monetary donation--which is very generous and needed indeed. Yet, there is something about giving of oneself that is more rewarding--at least for me. My wife and I donate a little money to different charities every month online but it seems so impersonal. Yesterday gave me a chance to be there with the people in need. I was present--literally. I was being present to not only fill physical needs but to also give out smiles to weary faces. I saw them *not* as people that have "less then me" but people who are me and have as much as I do. Despite some of the tired faces--I saw Buddha in them all. I recalled the Buddha's days as a wandering ascetic and saw the same desire to be free in them--as he did. The desire to be free from the suffering that they were enduring. There journey is no different then mine, yours, or that of Thich Nhat Hanh for example. It may manifest in different forms but the search and the yearning to break free of samsara is exactly the same in all beings.

I saw in their faces my struggle in obtaining my social security benefits to keep us financially afloat. I saw in their faces the moment I was admitted to the hospital under suicide watch and in all those moments--someone was there for me and now too, here I was there for them. I can't convey how rewarding that realization was for me. I also saw in their faces the smile of my grandmother and the twinkle in the eyes of my niece. I met one little girl named Angel and it gave me so much joy and satisfaction to make her smile and in turn to make her dad smile in reaction to seeing his daughter smile. For that moment--that present moment--all was right in the world and helping them see that was a priceless gift from them to me.

As I filled each persons cup I concentrated on them as if they were the only person in the world. I saw the water I poured as precious gold. On such a hot day these folks gulped water as if it was the only thing that mattered--and in that moment it was. In that moment, offering them water was the most important thing I could do.

Another under emphasized side of giving is that of listening. So often the thing that we need most in life is to just. be. heard. I listened to their plights and desire for a home for example. Of course I couldn't give them a house but I could (and did) offer them a home. A house is different then a home. A house is an object but a home is love, respect, peace and understanding. For the afternoon these folks could come get a meal, a smile and someone who cared enough to listen for a few minutes. They were part of a home--they belonged. Someone cared for them and cares about them.

In the end, the only thing that we really have to give is indeed ourselves.

I was reminded how lucky, loved and looked after I am. My problems seemed to vanish into the warm summer air as I saw how grateful these folks were for a simple glass of cool water and a warm lunch. I walked on air back to the car. It reminded me how often I take things for granted and get cranky with people over stupid things. I was reminded of how silly it is to complain about being a little over-weight because of the medicines I have to take. Everyday, every moment, every breath is a precious gift and an opportunity for us to be who we know we truly are.

It was so wonderful to work together to help people get though one more day--helping them concentrate on one thing at a time--eating and drinking. We were Buddhists, Mormons and Presbyterians expressing the reality of our Oneness to help bring assistance to others and in turn they helped us.

Speaking of my Christian brother and sisters I could not help but remember the words in the Bible under Matthew 25:30-4o:

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'

This reminds me that when we give to the monks in their begging bowls we are giving unto the Buddha and therefore all beings.

Those folks will forever live inside of me.

~Peace to all beings~

PHOTO: The Buddha with begging bowl.

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EdaMommy said...

As we're on an uber tight budget, we often try to give our time or services to a project. It's the best way we can help - with a resource (time)that is precious, too.

They call him James Ure said...


Wonderful. Yeah, It doesn't matter how much we give or how long but the intention behind it. I bow to the Buddha within you. _/I\_

Anonymous said...

Your piece could have been called gratefulness. You’re beautiful!


They call him James Ure said...


Thank-you. :) I bow to the Buddha within you. _/I\_

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