I was stopped four times today... I'm really not looking for attention... really, I'm not. First a man yells from the parking lot, "Hey!" I look over. "Help me out here." At first I thought he might really need help... then the questions came:
He: What are you supposed to be?
Me: I'm not supposed to be anything.
He: What's that you're wearing?
Me: My clothes.
He: What are they for?
Me: (I wanted to answer that they were for covering my body, warding off heat and cold, etc., but it was really noisy and with my quiet voice and the distance between us he was having real trouble hearing what I said, so...) Nothing.
He: Well, don't you think they draw attention to yourself?
Me: That's not really my concern...
He: So, you don't work?
Me: Yes, I work.
Me: Many places... I teach.
He didn't hear this last answer, and most of the time he was just like "huh? huh?" and I had to repeat everything a few times, but then luckily a nearby gardener came to his aid:
He (new he): What religion are you?
He: So you believe in Buddha?
Me: I follow the Buddha.
He: Do you believe that Jesus Christ died for your sins? (They really don't waste time, these people...)
He: Well, Buddha didn't die and then rise up after three days...
At this point I held up my hand and said "I'm sorry, I'm busy right now." and started walking away, and then they both started shouting at me, "come back here!" and so on. What's the problem, really?
Then I get half way down the block and hear a skateboard coming up behind me, and a woman's voice, "excuse me..." I turn around, and she is very nice and asks if I wrote a letter to the Acorn recently. Yes. She asks if it's true I don't buy things. Yes. She asks if it would be okay if her and her friends offered me food sometime.
It's funny how mixed this world is... we are a motley crew, us humans... Anyway, I was quite happy, not because of the food offer - there's always lots of food, and I'd probably have done better to offer to have her and her friends come and share the food we have - but happy to be talking to an ordinary human being with an open mind and kind heart. Maybe it's the Canadian in me, but I expect a certain basic level of civility towards perfect strangers, even strange-looking strangers. Maybe it was because she was strange herself - at least to those who see lip piercings and skateboards as strange. She asked for my phone (danger, danger...) and I gave her my card. She explained that she had nothing to offer at that time, and I protested that it's really okay, I have lots of food to eat.
At any rate, it was nice to have such a turn around, restoring a small bit of my faith in humanity, and I continued my alms uneventful (though more than a bit late...) and was almost back at my apartment when I small voice behind me calls out, "hi!" I turn around to see a little girl who's name I don't know but who waves and says hi to me every time she sees me, along with her mother. I wave back and say, "hi!" She repeats it. I smile, walk away. It's always good to have friends.
And then I have to yell at some lay people who came to offer me food because they're making a ruckus outside of the meditator's room. Maybe I deserve people yelling at me after all...