L is now looking after a Buddha given by Leicestershire study group image

Julie’s story :

It’s a beautiful autumn Saturday. I’m walking beside Maitripala bringing metta to mind. I feel the lightness of that as we pass a steady flow of faces and I enjoy just noticing and imagining how people are experiencing their day.

Along the length of Royal Parade and then down Elizabeth Street I fleetingly notice a pair of hands weaving bracelets as we pass. I don’t see who. I only see dirty hands and the perfectly clean finished wrist bands made of coloured thread displayed on the pavement. We pass on.

We make it to Federation square and I enjoy a drink with Maitripala,  Dantachitta and Itir before we go our separate ways. In my pocket is a Buddha but I don’t imagine I’ll find the person I can pass that onto let alone the courage to approach someone.

I find my feet travelling the way we came and I notice my mind returning to those hands. I do know where I’m going.

I listen to strong classical music as I make my way down Bourke Street, then around the corner into Elizabeth Street, gazing ahead and looking for that spot.

I see the bracelets on the ground and the rumpled blanket with no one there. A twinge of disappointment arises but before it takes hold this form moves quickly in front of me and quickly takes a seat. I see a bracelet. I buy it. It’s my way in to make contact.

I ask to sit down and he says ‘sure.’

L talks with bright intelligence. He says his plaiting helps him make a little money and that he gets his embroidery thread from Lincraft.

He says it’s safer on the street than in the Salvation Army Hostel, how the only showers he and others living on the streets can use are being renovated for the next six weeks and how he’s gotten used to being dirty. He says, “I’ve been homeless less than a year. It’s Ok now but I’m hoping I can get another blanket before winter”

We talk and it’s easy. I learn a lot about L in a very short space of time. I learnt that he was in the army, drove trucks in Afghanistan, didn’t see active service but saw the horror of how war can be. I learnt that he appreciates learning and loves philosophy. “It’s all cause and effect” he said. “It’s hard out here. You see the very worst in people but you see the very best too. People have been really good”.

I asked him if I could give him something. Again he answers ‘sure.’  I pulled the Buddha out of my pocket and passed it to him. “Wow, thanks” he said with a smile, as he gazed at the figure, turning it in his hands and admiring its detail.

It felt so easy to give it to him. As if his hands were made for the receiving of it and after photographing the Buddha in his hands it felt good to see him deposit it safely in the pocket of his jacket. We talked more philosophy and he had a natural Buddhist take on things. He’s a realist but he’s also an optimist.

There is something so simple that he said which will always stay with me, “The most important things are love, happiness and intelligence. That’s what I think”.

My last words to him were “You have the kindest eyes. See you again.

I have thought of him since and have a tin box of embroidery thread sitting in a drawer that I think he could make good use of.