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The Good

October 6, 2012

“Downtown Morning,” Los Angeles, October 3, 2012. Photo by the author.

I was contemplating my own judgmentalism and enjoying the relax glow of post-meditation on the way back from Santa Monica.  The Big Blue Bus had been almost empty when I got on. I said hello to the cheerful driver and marveled at how she calmly dealt with a difficult passenger at the next stop.  The last local stop was packed with students from what must have been a nearby college.  Seats were quickly filled.

A round Hispanic man with a cheerful, open face took the seat next to me.  He saw my bicycle helmet and we struck up a conversation, somehow making our way from bicycle safety to religion in fewer than six degrees.  I was Buddhist and he was first Catholic and then Mormon and then Christian.  He had the glow of revelation when he talked about reading the Bible the night before.

“When I read the Bible,” he explained, “I don’t know, I feel like something is changing in me.  Like the words really resonate and make a lot of sense.”  He gestured with his two hands held close in front of him in the confines of the bus.

“It’s transcendent,” I said.  I knew the feeling well from reading Buddhist scriptures and Dharma.

“Yes!” His face lit up.  “That’s right, it’s transcendent.”

We talked about Jesus and the Trinity.  He wanted to know what Buddhists thought about Jesus.  I explained we had great respect for him as a teacher but little interest in the question of his parentage.  Either way made little difference to us.  Did I see the sacred world?  Yes, but I didn’t believe it was any different from this world.  They were the same.

“You know, it’s hard to live the way the Bible says we should,” my new friend said, “the way Jesus taught us, too.  So hard.”  He shook his head.

“It is,” I agreed.  Jesus taught a radical form of nonviolence, compassion, and love for one’s fellow beings.  “But that is the main command of Christian teaching, to love God and love people.  They are the same command.”

“Right?  It’s not like you can just love God with all your heart, mind, and soul, you have to love other people too.  All those people out there.”

We looked around the crowded bus, young people standing in the isles, to the traffic beyond the bus, the ten freeway crowded with cars, to the shining towers of downtown Los Angeles we were swiftly approaching.

We introduced ourselves as the bus merged into downtown traffic.  His surname was El Bueno, “The Good” in Spanish.  This was his father, the older Hispanic gentleman sitting behind me.  We shook hands, a smile on his wrinkled face as he took my hand in both of his and bobbed his head.

“Do you believe in Facebook?” he asked.

“Of course I believe in Facebook.  I don’t need faith for that.  I can see it on my computer screen.”  We both laughed.

“That’s the easy part,” he agreed.

We got off at the same stop in downtown.  I shook hands again with him and his father and then we parted.

It’s hard to love everyone and see the good even in bad people, but sometimes the good finds you.




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