There was a special time,a time when my friend Doug and I walked with our hearts on the streets of ‘dangerous’ Downtown East side Vancouver,British Columbia,Canada,spiritually befriending the downtrodden,outcasts of society,prostitutes and drug addicts.I never felt threatened or unsafe or repulsed by the ‘dark activities’going on in that area.Who am I to judge or think that I was a ‘hero’trying to save them.NO! I was not there trying to play saviour or speak of a God or spread religiosity to try to convert them.
I was in fact there to learn from them,to be challenged in real-life learning lessons ……to break my heart open to the terrorizing,painful suffering that I relate with them in a different scenario.Humility was the biggest lesson I had to cherish as it was not easy sometimes to be hurled with obscenities and with their rough,crude and toughened mannerisms.I learned to love sincerely, to hold them, to accept them in whatever state they were in,to laugh and cry and share with them and kiss them and wipe away their tears,allow their tears to flow on my jacket/shirt.Most of them are infected with the Aids/Hiv virus and were scarred with sores and visible infected marks on their bodies.It could be very unsightly to look at,I never saw it as a hindrance to be with them.To look into their eyes and tell them that they are loved and not to be afraid.It was a joyful,fulfilling time when they would run and rush forward to be hugged and held and smiled at,there was a tiny one(Doug and I would call her little Ashu) who simply liked jumping on my back like a little monkey.
There were also disheartening times when they would shun,deny and reject any form of kindly contact.
Despite the subtle chaotic,harmful violence being visibly witnessed through the self inflicted suffering these people are causing to themselves(by way of openly shooting up,overdosing,dealing in drugs,watching the johns and ladies engaging in bargaining for sexual favours,yelling and screaming profanities,the frequent sounds of screeching,deafening ambulance/police sirens) ;I walked through the streets in peaceful and loving expression not of or for their activities but in compassion for their pain and ignorant/wasteful suffering.From witnessing these painful states, I was gaining access into my own self-created and unnecessary sufferings and vowed to purify myself of misery.Suffering helps us to look into suffering and then its up to us to want healing for it.
Once Doug,who remains a dear friend till today,invited his friend a priest(Fr.River) from Seattle,USA to join us in walking on the streets.While walking Fr.River suggested that we have a celebration of Mass right there out on the streets.Both Doug and I were joyous at the idea!So we stopped in front of a McDonald’s fast food joint and bought whatever we could to use,bread for communion host,probably pop in paper cups as wine and we spread paper napkins on the ‘dirty’floor.We sat on the floor in peaceful reverence for that sacred ceremony while chaos was going on right there around us.We gently invited the people on the streets to come join in if they liked to.To our surprise,some did respectfully sit with us to celebrate that lovely,lovely time of meaningful celebration of love on the streets.Fr.River showed courage,sincere fearlessness flexibility,spontaneity,humility,kindness and a true healing/sharing and peaceful spirit in the face of subtle violence and confusion.
As I look at this experience, I envision what the historical Jesus Christ would have done in his time and era as he was going about teaching, sharing and projecting peacefulness in the time of hatred,strife and anger over the Roman rule of his country Jerusalem.Despite violence and plotting against the Romans(Romans against the Jews and vice versa), Jesus taught compassion,charity, kindness,forgiveness and peaceful resolutions…..he taught only to look Within the Self to find the ‘Kingdom of Heaven in there’He did not bother with the chaos going on nor did he encourage anger and hatred.He invited people to find healing within themselves.
So what can we learn from this……do we get influenced by the turmoil going on in the present day world or do we find peace and love and compassion to offer to the pain of the world?