He was rummaging through a couple of shopping bags looking at his purchases as I sat down next him at Fed Square.
I am beginning to wonder if the loving kindness practice is slowly transforming my sense of what’s an appropriate gap to leave when sitting near strangers.
Because as I sat down I noticed he turned his back on me slightly, like he wasn’t used to someone sitting so close. But rather than rejection it felt like he was being polite and sensitive to me in a way that he thought might be needed.
After a few minutes I spoke to his turned back, ” Your shoes are amazing!”
He spun around with a broad grin and eyes shining and replied,
“Yes, they are aren’t they!”
Those gold sneakers looked like they wanted to be noticed even if his body language said otherwise.
This man with very kind eyes then showed me how the sneakers even had little USB ports in the side of each shoe and when charged up the soles radiated disco colours. He was disappointed this feature had recently broken as he wasn’t sure I really believed him.
I relaxed into easy conversation with him and he told me where he was from, what he had been shopping for, and all about his not so easy childhood and family dynamics.
He showed me the tracheotomy scar from the serious accident he had as an 18 year old many years ago. And I heard how currently he was living in the garage on his property as he’d had a house fire earlier this year and was still waiting for the insurance company to settle.
His last purchase today had been a polished stone cross from the big city Church nearby. I helped him thread it onto the rope necklace he had just purchased so he could wear it straight away.
From that first moment he had turned around to reply to me he was open, honest and engaged. Sharing words made the space between us so alive and interesting.
He then asked me what I was doing in Fed Square and I told him about the Buddhas in the Pocket pilgrimage.
Before I could get them out of my bag and offer him one he laughingly asked, ” Can I have one !?’
As I revealed the little pile of Buddhas he went straight to the white Budai.
We talked about its meaning and he liked the fact this Buddha depicted generosity and abundance. He said, ” I try to lead a generous life.”
At the end of our conversation I gave him a card so he could look at the blog and see what I would be writing about our time together if he wished.
We were leaving on warm first name terms so it felt natural to give him a parting hug.
I know sometimes the people I meet often seem to relax because I am so open with them but today it felt like this man had a purity and uncomplicatedness that was a gift to me .
Memory of it still makes me smile.
Buddha donated by Alison Melbourne