From the BlogMeet Ron


Dear friends,

Warmest greetings to you, this first week of the New Year.

A poem that for me speaks to what I feel we need in this world – calor humano is how we say it in Spanish. Human warmth. Kindness.

The recognition of of shared humanity, with tenderness.

“At the Corner Store” by Alison Luterman

It was a new old man behind the counter,
skinny, brown and eager.
He greeted me like a long lost daughter,
as if we both came from the same world,
someplace warmer and more gracious than this cold city.

I was thirsty and alone. Sick at heart, grief-soiled
and his face lit up as if I were his prodigal daughter

coming back to the freezer bins in front of the register
which were still and always filled
with the same old Cable Car ice-cream sandwiches and cheap frozen greens.
Back to the knobs of beef and packages of hotdogs,
these familiar shelves strung with potato chips and corn chips,
stacked-up beer boxes and immortal Jim Beam.

I lumbered to the case and bought my precious bottled water
and he returned my change, beaming
as if I were the bright new buds on the just-bursting-open cherry trees,
as if I were everything beautiful struggling to grow,
and he was blessing me as he handed me my dime

over the dirty counter and the plastic tub of red licorice whips.

This old man who didn’t speak English
beamed out love to me in the iron week after my mother’s death
so that when I emerged from his store

my whole cockeyed life—
what a beautiful failure!—
glowed gold like a sunset after rain.

Frustrated city dogs were yelping in their yards,
mad with passion behind their chain-linked fences,
and in the driveway of a peeling-paint house
a woman and a girl danced to contagious reggae.

Praise Allah! Jah! The Buddha! Kwan Yin,
Jesus, Mary and even jealous old Jehovah!

For eyes, hands of the divine, everywhere.

What’s so touching about this poem is that the poet was open to noticing the old man’s gentleness and love even during this tough time for her – she tells us this was an “iron week” for her following her mother’s death.

As we move forward in this New Year, perhaps we will all have our “iron weeks” or “iron months” ahead. Can we participate in the subtle conversations of intimacy and blessing like the one described in this poem?

When we are caught in our own storyline, our dramas, it’s often difficult to accept love, especially from a stranger in an unexpected setting. I feel myself there in this corner store, taking in the subtle silent message of grace.

I know how this sudden taking in of good will and blessing allows one to see the world in that moment in a fresh way. 

She accepted that invitation right then and there from the old man who did not even speak the same language as she– and in that moment deeply appreciated the yelping dogs, the paint-peeling house, the reggae music — the imperfect world around her. 

Meditation offers us these moments of grace and blessing. We just have to be open to receive them like the poet did at the corner store; especially in silent exchanges under the radar of the monitoring ego.

And to discover the freshness and vitality of this world free from our social media freak outs and cynicism.

The North American author and photographer Eudora Welty wrote:

“My continuing passion is to part a curtain — that invisible veil of indifference that falls between us and that blinds us to each other’s presence, each others wonder, each others human plight.” 

Joy and ease and contentment truly provide the foundation of our spiritual life. Sure, we talk a lot about impermanence, discomfort, stress and despair, but I feel this is at the service of “each other’s wonder.” 

The Buddha talks a lot in the suttas about savoring the joy and contentment that come about from living a good life, meditating and practicing loving-kindness and compassion. 

But it can be a challenge to consciously open and truly, mindfully, savor joy and contentment, not simply consume it.

In his book “Liberating Intimacy,” Zen writer Peter Herschock talks about the fruit of the meditative path as intimacy. Meditation is not about me getting free or clear, but rather it’s about allowing intimacy to flow — such that, as the poet wrote above, she felt 

my whole cockeyed life—
what a beautiful failure!—
glowed gold like a sunset after rain.

Meditation invites us to dance with grace and ease in the coming days and months.

Accept the invitation.  Tom, Katina, Tutu and the kids

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