I got home from a PZI 7-day retreat yesterday. I felt sad, wallowing a bit in the special kind of grief I often feel at the end of a retreat. Stepping off the plane into sharp winter Virginia air, it felt like I was being thrust into a foreign country. Surely people will not understand me here, I thought. I do not belong.
I wandered over to the long-term parking lot and, lo and behold, I saw a guy in a Charlottesville Airport uniform smoking a cigarette. Late 40s, mustache. I held up two quarters and said, “Excuse me, could I buy a cigarette from you?” He turned around, smiled, deftly pulled a Marlboro halfway out of his pack and said, “No man, you don’t have to pay for it.”
As we were smoking, I asked him what he did at the airport. He said, “You mean what I don’t do! I help people. I’m all over the place, fixing things, carrying things. I like to think I help people out. I just do whatever needs to be done.”
I said, “In the Buddhist traditions, they call those people bodhisattvas.”
I laugh and nod. Yeah. Artists. I know.
“But I just try to smile and be helpful. Cause you know, everyone’s got problems, I got all kinds of problems in my life. But when you help someone, that stuff always comes back around. It may not come back like, you help someone with their luggage and they give you a $20 bill, but maybe it comes around in some other form.”
I say, “Yeah, like you step out your front door and it’s a beautiful sunny day. All for me!” I’m surprised when he seems excited at that idea. He grins and exclaims, “Yeah!”
Child in the dark photo, Byron Young (it’s on his Facebook page somewheres)
Cantaloupe photo, Sandra Cardin
Miner spreads his lunch out photo (1974), National Archives
It’s Alive! Zen is a home for Zen meditation and koans in San Antonio, Texas