by Dawn Chiyo Sensei.
“If you see the Buddha on the road, don’t kill him…give him dry socks.”
I went out this week to get some used bowls at Goodwill. Standing in front of me was a man who was buying a coat and some socks. He stood out because his hair and clothes were very dirty and disheveled — the kind of thing I note without being repelled, having known homelessness myself — but what really stood out was his face. It looked like someone had broken an office chair apart on it after several tries. There was a network of scratches, bruises, and swellings mapping his face and extending into his hairline. He has a huge band-aid on one cheek. His movements were painful.
After I checked out and went outside I stood for a moment to take in the weather. We were several hours into a slushy, freezing rain and I was a little concerned about my drive home. As I lowered my eyes, there was the man who had been in front of me in line.
He had put the coat he had just bought over his wet clothes and was standing barefoot in a slush puddle desperately trying to wrestle a dry sock onto one of his soaking feet and keep his balance against a wall. I walked up to him and smiled broadly. “I would hate to see the other guy,” I said. He smiled back and laughed. I asked him what happened and if he was ok. he said he didn’t know…I felt that was an answer to both questions.
I offered him a ride anywhere he needed to go. On our way to the Post Office, he visibly relaxed in the warmth of the car and I turned all the vents toward him as he let out a long sigh. As with so many other people with wide open hearts that feel the world’s pain, our friend, Joshua James Gray by name, had been self-medicating with alcohol when he was beaten and had no memory of what happened to him. We shared our sorrows and the harsh realities of living with a broken, loving heart in this world.
Just before we turned into the Post Office parking lot, it came up the I am studying to be a Buddhist Lay Minister. Joshua’s eyes lit up. He turned to me and said, “I LOVE Buddha!” and his beaten face suddenly transformed into that of an 8-year-old boy on Christmas. As we sat for a great deal of time in the parking lot and talked, it was clear he had been longing to talk to someone about Buddha. He spoke of the Buddha as though he was someone he knew intimately, a best friend, a brother.
I gave Joshua my number. As I drove away, both of us waving to each other, I thought about how wonderful it had been to talk to someone so alive with the Dharma. And since I met him, I wonder how it was that I was so lucky to have met the Buddha’s brother standing in a cold puddle in a storm.
Dawn Chiyo Sensei is a Lay Minister with Bright Dawn Way of Oneness Sangha. For information about Bright Dawn and the Lay Ministry program please visit our website.