I walked down the same path today. Today the people looked a little different to me. Warm, welcoming faces in contrast to the cold around us. Its getting cooler here in Boudha these days. I keep saying to myself i need to buy a jacket but something keeps preventing me. The jackets are nice here, padded jackets either with down fill or synthetic. Warm fur on the inside and a weather repellant synthetic fiber on the outside. When you put one of these on you look puffed up like a marshmallow. Sometimes i laugh to myself and try to imagine this pathway with a whole lot of marshmallows walking up and down it. But the jackets are warm. :)
I met a familiar face today. We had met before, we exchanged pleasant conversation twice before. He works at a coffee shop along the path called the dream factory. While talking, i shivered with the cold. Immediately he asked me if i had a jacket. I replied "no but i intend to get one." Hold on he said. He leaves and returns a few minutes later with a jacket in hand. a NICE ONE with fur on the inside, fashionable and oh so warm. He says to me: "take this, you can have it." Such kindness. My heart is overflowing as i write this. So cold. So cold on the outside. Afraid of the warmth yet still longing for it. Afraid to truly connect, this old soul.....so cold. A man who earns less in a year than i would in a week hands me his jacket and my heart melts. No expectation. Just kindness. I didn’t even know his name. He knew that. "Here take this, you can have it." He pours me a cup of warm milk tea and excuses himself as he had chores to fulfill.
Now i am left with a nice warm jacket and a big debt to pay. My heart has been opened by this gift of love. Its not the jacket its the gesture. He gave me himself. His Being. His nature. You have to become really vulnerable in order to give like that, especially when your giving causes you pain. You have to become really vulnerable in order to truly see the gift and to receive it. I have missed this so many times. Now there is so much i can give here. There are so many here who are in need. True need. Not for luxuries or niceties but for food, warm clothes and a place to shelter from the weather.
There is a lady who sits outside a monastery in Boudha. She sits and asks for money. What she really wants is time. I did not see this at first. She speaks Nepali. I cannot understand most of what she says. It does not matter. I would pass her by every morning. I would place some money on her cloth. She would see me, but i would not see her. I refused to. I preferred the disconnect. A wrestless contentment. One day, i saw her with a little boy. He looked really sick. His eyes kept drifting off. I saw the look on her face and knew then that this was her son. I saw some other ladies, who would also ask for money, come by to help. The boy looked like he was going to die. My heart was moved, but i felt a little helpless. I just stood afar and watched as she put the boy on her back. (He must have been around 10 years of age) and walked away in desperation.
My heart sank. I went into the monastery and could not focus on my art classes that day. All i could think about was the boy. I came by the next day feeling really sorrowful and desperate. I felt like this lady belonged to me. That her son did as well. I felt sorrow for my inaction. I just wanted to see her there. I wanted to see her smile as she usually did. I wanted to know that everything was okay. But she wasn’t there. There was just an empty space. I was so sad. I went back home and asked for another chance. Two days later i saw her there. Her son was there as well. He looked healthy. This time i did not pass her. This time i sat down, and smiled.
We are now friends. The lady, her son and myself. We do things together. Her son and i. We share. He speaks my language so well. Once i rushed past her. Once, i was so busy. I thought that she wanted my money. I placed it on her cloth with haste and as i did, i looked at the hurt expression on her face. I betrayed her. I betrayed myself. I betrayed the true meaning of our relationship. Now, whenever i see her, she asks me to sit down and i do. She blesses me. She does not expect money. Sometimes i give, sometimes i don’t. Its a nice feeling to feel connected like this.
There is a man here who gave me his guitar to use for my duration of stay here. There is a boy who gave me his portable hard drive, there are two teachers who give me their time without expectation of pay. I get chai everytime i sit down at a family restaurant here. Sometimes they dont accept my money. They smile and say see you tomorrow. I cannot begin to understand where this comes from. I feel so indebted to all. I am so grateful. I am grateful to the man who gave me a jacket for the cold. I am grateful to the lady who gave me her loving kindness. I am grateful for the guitar, for the teachings, for the food, for the warmth, for the time that people take to show me love. The more i spend time with people here, i realise how far i am from the truth of human existence. I realise that I have made people, life and things a prop for my selfish existence. I realise slowly that things are just an excuse for hearts to get closer. Money and things are a mere excuse for souls to unite. This is the goal. If we lose sight of this then there is only emptiness in the exchange.
I have read these words by Kahlil Gibran so many times before but am only begining to understand it now because of the kindness of the people here in Boudha: http://www.katsandogz.com/ongiving.html