By Joy Richardson
Today as I’m leaving the market, there is an old mountain man sitting in a choice begging spot, across the street where you have to look him in the eye to exit the drive way.
He’s sort of adorable; if he were a dog, he’d be a filthy senior Komondor. He has an old cardboard sign and he’s sitting Indian style on the curb with his bags. You can’t tell where his hair ends and his clothing begins.
He’s a work of art…I wish I could take his picture but I recognize the shame in that.
I’m not the sort who thinks if I give, I will be rewarded with anything. I don’t believe I am helping by giving handouts. I certainly do not believe God will favor me if I do good things, but I do believe in being happy, and sharing it. Don’t think I’m angry at God, or even disbelieve; I simply am at peace with not knowing, and if there is a God, he’s pretty cool with that, I’m sure. (I get annoyed at haters, so fuck you, agnostic and heathen and pagan haters).
Anyhooo….I glance at him and pull up alongside of him. He unfolds and scrambles over, smiling and showing me a couple of useless teeth. I smile a little (he probably doesn’t need to be exposed to happiness to the degree I am having today) and place a bill in his hand.
He light’s up and says, “JEEEESUS Christ! Thank you li’l sweetie!” which does make me smile, because that’s just fucking cute.
I say, “You’re welcome sir.” and leave.
Then, I think, “now I was gonna buy Engstrom’s chocolate covered toffees for my co-workers with that! Why on earth did I DO that?”
And she (that other committee member in my head) begins to sing “Big Rock Candy Mountain” and I smile again. The old gentleman sitting there was my dad, BillyJake, and he was my Uncle Jack, too. Jack had been a homeless bum. My dad was a family man who admired his brother’s freestyle life but was too committed and responsible to live like that. He wanted to be a good citizen. But he loved Jack dearly and admired his rebellious streak.
That old man, sitting there, was both of those wonderful men, and I was his daughter. And that is what some of us Buddhists mean by reincarnation. It’s the recognition of every individual as a part of who we are, and sometimes we get to celebrate that.
Joy Richardson is a 60 year old practicing cynic when not embracing the other end of the pendulum and feeding jumping spiders in the garden or ravens in the front yard. Joy lives in the Western Slopes with her partner and two Great Danes. Buddhism very likely saved her heartbeat many times, and is now a part of every breath she takes, godammit.
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