See everyone as Buddha. This purifies the mind of ignorance and arrogance.
-Master Baek, “Polishing The Diamond”
Imagine being a five year old child. Your mother split when you were a baby. At age three you’re taken from your father’s care for abuse and neglect and placed with an aunt. Then a DNA test proves that the man who cared for you — and abused you — from birth was never your father. No one knows who your father is. The woman who is no longer your aunt doesn’t want you anymore. After a series of group home placements, you end up in what seems like a loving foster home. But that loving foster home turns into the home for eight much older children just like you, only much angrier. Though your foster parents are saints, your latest home has turned dangerous for you once again. The social worker says that you have to leave. Again.
Imagine being a man in your mid-forties. Your life has been a story of overcoming demons. You brought yourself up by your bootstraps with the help of AA after a youth of alcoholism and drug abuse. You’ve narrowly escaped death and long term incarceration. You suffered through residential treatment and prevailed. You’ve been clean for years. And then you slip and make a mistake, a mindless indiscretion, that tears apart your family and apparently takes away the new life that you built. The new life that you *deserved*. The new life that your faith promised you. The same faith that appears to have failed you. And you have no one to blame but yourself. The shame and grief tears you apart. A friend talks you out of committing suicide, so you agree to let yourself live. But you have no idea what you’re going to do next week.
Imagine you are in your seventies. Age has brought with it chronic pain and discomfort. Your mind, or so you are told, is slipping away into dementia. Your world is shrinking around you. They won’t let you drive anymore. You were the matriarch of your family, once the pillar of strength that everyone else looked to and depended on. You remember those times like they were yesterday, which makes the fact that you can’t remember yesterday very well all the more depressing. On good days, when you are able to break though the pain, you still look for ways to be helpful. To be needed.
In the past week, I have prayed for the ability to connect with the pain of these three people in my life. To understand so that I can be present to them. Help them in some way. In fact, I, along with my wife, *am* indeed in a position to help all three of these people. But I will never be able to truly help them if I do it from an attitude of arrogance or out of pity. I must see them as Jesus, a Buddha, whatever. They have much to teach me about pain and life and love
I have lived a priviledged life. I have never known such pain. I’ve been shielded from troubles like theirs. Am I then to assume that I some how *deserve* my priviledged lot? And they don’t? Just maybe I have been placed here for these very people, to do what I can.
I have prayed for the ability to connect with their pain, but all I can conjure is my own fear of their pain. I cannot imagine what I would do if I were them. I pray to move aside that fear so that I can be there, do whatever I can, and treat them as if they were Jesus, a Buddha, whatever. As humbly as a student would serve a master. So that’s what I pray for today.