I already know what I am saying..but I will say it anyways. Very few of us get a free pass on this earth to have it easy. Some get an extreme raw deal - and others though may look like they have it all are empty inside. Who knows how we are magically popped into what body in what place - but where ever we land its up to us to find our way.
Now - I'm not a theologian - so don't hold me to this...but a basic premise of Buddhism is suffering. Like I said - no one gets a free pass. But its not a suffering because you are a bad person and need to atone your sins...its just as simple as this is earth - its got a ton of moving parts - and good luck on the ride because most likely its going to be bumpy. And sometimes the only power we have is to learn how to keep picking ourselves up.
I was at a devastatingly sad funeral this week, not of someone I knew well - or in fact even at all - but see that's the beauty of where I have grown up - its a community - that has webs and vines all over the place that keep us all connected. I was lucky enough to grow up where I could cut through backyards to catch the later bus at my best friend's house. I had to dodge the scary doberman pinchers, and was thrilled when those neighbors moved for a more peaceful "commute". We roamed through our little utopia like it was a vast world. We could cut through the woods in her backyard and get to my grandparents house, we could sneak next door to them on rare occasions and jump on Mr. C's trampoline.
We took Spanish from Mrs. G in the basement of her home. As high as we could count we got that many of these special mini spanish cookies. She gave me my first ever job helping her assemble the greeting cards she was making from her photographs. I would sit in her dining room and glue the photos - careful not to smudge - onto folded card stock. I went to the local arts and crafts fair where we ate apples and painfully watched many admirers but no purchases. So after two hours we packed up and headed back home, where her sweet husband said they probably were too good for a craft sale. I use to walk her wiry dog Olie and help when she had dinner parties.
My parents driveway is a long hill with three homes. When you pulled in the driveway you turned left to the older couple's ranch home where I was mesmerized that a grandpa would drive a gold porsche. Then our driveway at the bottom right with our house facing the road, and further and up a bit of a hill - the hill you needed to back up the car on snowy days to get enough speed to get up the main drive was the creme de la creme in my young mind - if I could I would play music and put a spotlight on the house that was fancy as the fancy people that lived in it. I adored them, and still do. I learned a sense of style, meticulous work ethic ( Mrs. P would even go up to the top of the drive and sweep around the mailboxes when too much gravel accumulated!) She was glamorous and wore winter white - actually winter cream in the winter and sunbathe in her white bikini in the summer. They owned a foundry and ever so often would bring us white beach like sand for our sandbox. I would wander around in hopes of being asked inside for a pretzel stick or black licorice that always sat in glass containers on the counter-top.
There were empty fields behind and to the east side of our home that over the years had new homes and new neighbors to occupy them. I babysat for the three young children behind us - and to this day can't believe the kindness of Mrs. S when she called to check in and i turned to grab the phone while her son fell off of the changing table. She rushed home and said it was her fault for being so silly to call and interrupt while i was babysitting. She is now an EMT in our village and when my mom was so sick with shingles she was our surrogate nurse.
Across the street I would linger at Anne's ( I didn't call her Mrs.) while she made her famous pasta sauce and discovered how good peaches tasted with cream and sugar. I learned about the love and sacrifice of adoption when they brought their first child home, a little daughter and then later a son. I was too young to babysit so I was her little helper, getting bottles ready, going to find a clean bib.
I had a home where I felt safe - but better than that I had a neighborhood where I was allowed to be safe. I felt as at home when I was at my best friend's house as I was at my own...Mrs. B made the best milkshakes ever using Mr. Quick - and they always had the perfect consistency - to this day I have never had one better. We had sleepovers almost always at her house under crisp ironed sheets. Where annoying big brothers jumped out of closets to scare us or bossed us around. We played endless hours of "school" in the basement where her dad had those inversion boots to help with your back. I learned much later in life that when she slept over at my house and we would play password till all hours of the night - which i could never manage even then to stay up so late was because she was scared of the noises in our house -which is crazy ironic considering she has bungee jumped off the highest bridge in the world. Her house will always be known by her family's name, even when they moved a bit west our senior year in high school. That's how it is in our village - you are always living in someone else's house by name until many many years later when the tides shift and it becomes your own.
My friendship has continued to this day with many dimensions and changes, but at its core its deep with love. I was honored to maid of honor at her wedding - so when their closest family friend and our neighbor are hit with tragedy - you show up. You show up because you grew up hearing all the stories of their Christmas Caroling together, you drove past their family home every day, and now their grown child ( the "child" that is now my age) have moved into the house once occupied by the scary dogs. They are a part of you by default.
As I was at the funeral, when I introduced myself, the children's dad said to me I will have to teach his kids all the secret hiding spots. If I can do nothing else, I can do that. I will tell them that they can cut through my parents yard to get to the other neighborhood - they can set up a soccer game in their backyard because its long and flat - and I will let them know while I will never comprehend their resilience and courage at their mother's funeral - or the depth of their pain - I will tell them they are safe. That though I am sure their previous neighborhood was a wonderful place, perhaps someone plucked them a year ago into this new home for a reason. I will share with them the history of where they are - I will tell them that while their home has been referred to by two previous names - the love and youth they have infused has brought it back to life and the naming ritual has been passed to them. I will pray for them that this neighborhood becomes their own utopia and refuge from this storm - I will hope for them that their suffering be lessened by the love that is deep in the grass that they are running through, the trees that shade them and the love that surrounds them.