Coming out of the supermarket with my purchases for dinner I noticed a man sitting on the bus stop bench.
After many months of doing metta walks and talking to strangers I have developed a refined sense of when a person is waiting for something specific like a bus or ‘ just waiting ‘.
Waiting for human connection.
So I walked up and sat down next to him and started a conversation.
He had very interesting jewellery around his neck and a cheeky smile.
When he found out I was from Melbourne he told me about the time he lived there and had gone up to the Dandenong Ranges to rescue his girlfriend from the Ash Wednesday bushfires.
I lived through those fires as well and we discovered he would have driven through my home town of Emerald to get to the next town to rescue his girlfriend. He made it through because he was on a motorbike and was able to evade the roadblocks police had in place as it was too dangerous to let people back onto the burning mountain.
27 people died in the fires in two towns very close to Emerald. I was in a house with my two young children and their father. We had decided to stay and defend our home.
It was a decision I would never make again whenever fires threatened the beautiful forest I lived in.
Wildfires are terrifyingly unpredictable and fast.
So as this man and I sat remembering our fear that day I got out my bag of little Buddhas and offered him one.
I told him I had been given these as gifts to giveaway to strangers and that flow of giving can remind us of the potential for kindness in every human being,
As is often the case, he immediately knew which one was for him.
He was attracted to the colour – black. His emotions were on the surface, perhaps remembering that black, dark day we both had experienced so he suddenly asked for a hug.
It felt a natural cementing of this connection.
Buddha donated by Sok Kheim Melbourne.
Coming back to the present, I found out he was a tattooist and he started looking through his phone to show me some of his work.
Suddenly a mate of my new friend appeared at the bus stop seat. They hugged warmly and he showed the black faced Buddha to his mate.
I still had the other Buddhas spread out on my bag and I saw this new man’s eyes light up.
‘Would you like to choose one, too? I offered.
As his hand went straight to a green Kuan Yin necklace he replied,
‘Oh thanks love. That’s nice of you.’
He had it around his neck in a flash and we talked a bit about my ‘kindness pilgrimage.’
Suddenly it started raining heavily and we spontaneously moved a few steps to stand undercover outside the busy shopping thoroughfare.
Very occasionally when I am talking to people on the street I become briefly aware that some of those walking by stare seemingly a bit perturbed about the incongruity of a grey haired older woman having such an animated conversation with some men they may have seen around their local streets probably on a regular basis.
Many of these guys aren’t homeless but living in small unappealing council flats. They come out into their street community daily to sometimes drink and chat to friends.
In talking to these two guys I discover they are friends with gentle voiced man I talked to just an hour earlier who sat on the church steps just around the corner.
I smile as I realise that three Buddhas have found new homes in the same community of friends.
My tattooist friend at this point asks the guy with Kuan Yin around his neck if he has boxer shorts on.
When the answer is affirmative the tattooist friend asks him to drop his tracksuit pants to show me the tattoo he did on his friend’s leg. He obviously wants me to see some of his best work.
So now I am pretty sure some of the people walking past are totally confused as to why I am squatting down admiring the art work on the leg of this man with his pants at his ankles. These guys are so unashamedly themselves in the present moment I find connection with them usually demands letting go of social pretence which is quite freeing ….as long as no harm is being done.
Then my tattooist friend says, ‘ Can I have another hug? ‘ and as if to prepare the ground for a ‘yes’ his eyes sparkle and he says looking directly at me.
‘ We are rogues but we are loveable rogues!’
My agreement with this sentiment was in the form of big bear of a hug.
And in that moment I am hugging my brother and all people like him. My brother Michael lived this life for years before he died at 49. There was so much suffering to do with addiction and mental illness in his community but learning to be comfortably present, in every unpredictable moment without judgement, I experienced staying long enough to see the beauty in the often unpolished gems right there in front of me.
Buddha donated Chris Melbourne
Postscript: Just as I am about to leave the scene another mate of my two new friends turns up and the man with Kuan Yin around his neck excitedly tells this him about what I am doing as I hear the words ….’She’s just traveling around spreading kindness, go on, choose one of her Buddhas.’
I can see this new guy’s total resistance to doing any such thing and he says,
‘ Nah I need to go and get a drink.’
And they all disappear off into the rain leaving me smiling at the joy of spontaneity and serendipity…which I hadn’t even thought to put on my shopping list.