This morning, as I was getting ready for work, there was a knock on the door. Dean took care of it, but as I came out I saw the young guy walking toward the road. “What was that about?” Dean said he was asking for food and he figured it was sketchy. We rarely get door knocks, and they’re usually for money, never for food. As I was leaving, I bagged up the stack of pancakes from too much breakfast, and a few vegan granola bars fresh and warm from the oven. He was less than half a mile up the road.

The young man, probably in his mid twenties, wore dark jeans, decent sneakers, a black jacket zipped up to his neck, and a tattered toboggan cap.  Though a high end brand name, his jacket was patched with seam tape, and hand sewn squares of fabric.  His dirty hands held a bowl, specifically  a blue glazed ceramic rice bowl.  He looked as though he’d been on the road a while.  

He called himself a traveling monk.  A young Buddhist, he had decided to go on a pilgrimage of sorts.  He never fully stated where he came from, merely that he decided to give away all his belongings and experience humility and simplicity.  Getting up at dawn, he began his day’s walk and prayer.  Between 11am and 1pm, he would approach homes, politely seeking generosity of food, not money, not supplies, just food.  He would eat what he was given by the first generous home, and seek no more.  He said, “You always get what you NEED.”  The remainder of his day was fasting, prayer, and walking.  He said he prays for the community and it’s residents as he passes through, and asks blessings on passersby – (although I’d imagine not all are polite.)

I didn’t ask where he sleeps, when his last hot shower was, or how how/if his family keeps track of him. As I listened to his explanation, albeit brief and simple, I felt guilty for our initial reaction, and for my lack of faith in humanity.  I had no reason to question anything he said.  My gut, my heart, my intuition….ALL said that he was genuine.  He had given up whatever comfort and routine he had in his former life to “experience ultimate humility”.  If my community didn’t feel gracious he wouldn’t eat today, yet he would still pray for each of us.  Where have we gone wrong as a society??

As I put my vehicle in reverse, he extended his hand for a shake.  We made eye contact and he said “The universe gives you what you need.  I’ve been thinking about pancakes for days. Thanks.  Be well.”

This was not a guy standing at the stop sign with a sign asking for cash.  This wasn’t the person who approaches you in the dimly lit parking lot for a hand out.  This was his journey in faith.  Tonight I will pray for his safe travels, and for humanity – that we can embrace some uncomfortable amount of humility and unease in order to grow and know ourselves and what brings us peace and joy in our lives…because we are fortunate.

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