Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Coffee and Compassion

I saw something lovely this morning...

I was at Philz Coffee, hoping to do some prayerful journaling and have a little reflection time before diving into the busyness of my work day.

I placed my order, found a table in the common room, went downstairs to pay for my tea and there witnessed a sweet scene going on. There were two uniformed police offers, one man & one woman, and two or three men in street clothes with them (friends? co-workers out of uniform?), talking and getting coffee. One of the latter was trying to pay for the group's coffees, while the uniformed officers were leaning in on either side of him; from what I could tell, trying to get their money to the cashier instead. The cashier said, don't worry, it's good - already paid. When they asked, the cashier pointed out a man standing at the counter. He was in casual clothes with a strand of wooden Buddhist prayer beads around his neck. He smiled when they thanked him and said he really appreciates all that they do.

A small thing, but a kind one. 

The officers and their friends moved to a high table across the room from the one I was seated at, chatting and laughing boisterously together. One of the men in uniform opened a home-wrapped sandwich and started eating it. This made me smile because earlier when I entered the cafe I had walked past their group and overheard them bantering and discussing it, teasing him a little as someone said "wow! I can't remember the last time my wife made me a sandwich... maybe not ever." The group laughed good-naturedly and I smiled, hoping that maybe the speaker's wife would do so for him sometime soon.

A small thing, done with love.

So why a story about coffee and sandwiches? What does this have to do with my religious growth and journey? Everything, really.

I have been reading and listening to a book in the past few weeks called, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World. It is the account of an extraordinary and poignantly sweet discussion between Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso; two world-renowned and esteemed octogenarian faith leaders from very different traditions having a deep and inspiring conversation about the nature of human relatedness and how to bring more joy into a world rife with pain and hardship for so very many people. They spoke not about brief, fleeting happiness based on material objects or situations but finding and creating deep, true joy that can transform our lives and the lives of others, even - or perhaps especially - in the midst of suffering. I've been touched by listening to the conversation and know that I will read it over again when I get the chance, to delve further into what these amazing men have to say. When I pulled up to Philz this morning, listening to the audio version, the discussion was on the joy we get from giving, from showing compassion and bringing joy to another. It can be so simple to do a small kindness for another person; just a little something letting them know that you appreciate them, that you see them and acknowledge their co-humanity with you.

And then, getting back to the officers, this happened - which struck me deeply enough that I felt compelled to share it with the local news source (Berkeleyside), in case they might be able to pass on my appreciation to the officers by posting it.

Kindness leading to kindness.

It was a lovely early morning hour. I got the journaling, prayer and reflection time I'd been hoping for - though certainly not in the manner I'd expected - and an extra dose of faith in humanity to-boot, just from seeing these random acts of compassion unfolding around me. Perhaps in reading this, you will also receive a bit of joy or faith to take with you in your day, or will do something kind for another person; and the cycle will continue. As the Archbishop and the Dalai Lama have said, it's all about the joy we can find by giving joy to others.

Wishing you joy! ~ Ari

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