Burma, September 2010. A small village about an hour from Yangoon. The average income of a family of 5 in that village is 35 USD a month. For a few months I was living and meditating in a monastery located at that village.
For many years I open my days drinking hot water with lemon and ginger. A habit I kept during most of my time meditating in Burma. Once a week I would visit the little village for lemon supply.
An older woman was selling fruits and vegetables in a little stall the size of an average laptop. She didn’t speak a word in English, she didn’t even know how to count in English and we used fingers and toothless smiles to communicate prices and change.
So one afternoon I did my weekly shopping. I paid and was about to leave when she gestured something I didn’t understand. She pointed at a pile of red hot chili peppers with an offering gesture. I in turn pointed at my belly, shook my head and said “cannot cannot”. She understood and smiled, then picked up a lemon and once again made an offering gesture. I smiled again and showed her that beg of lemons I just paid for. But she insisted and once again offered me that lemon but I still didn’t understand. By the fourth time she made an offering gesture she added one word – probably the only word she knew in English “present”.
SHE gave ME a present!!!! I was in tears. Overwhelmed. The generosity of those who have almost nothing moves me to the core. I took the lemon of course. I always allow others to be generous. I don’t mess with other’s karma
Still, this is just one story. Over the past year I was fortunate to receive countless acts of generosity. Beginning with my selfless teachers who daily devoted their time, love and attention without expecting anything in return; continue with the strangers who insisted on paying my bus tickets; the strangers who literally picked me up off the street and hosted me in their home; the (poor and rich) food donors; the nuns who renounced everything and yet always shared their food with me – every single meal; the MD who paid for my x-ray; the free medicine and many many many more. Every single day. And not just in Burma but also in Nepal, India, Thailand, London, Tel Aviv, New York. Rotterdam. San Francisco and anywhere else I go. Everywhere. Every day.
To be held and supported with so much kindness, tenderness and generosity – not only by my family and friends but also by complete strangers, and most incredibly by some of the poorest people in the world – this, is beyond my capacity to comprehend. For me this is pure magic. No less.
I share this little story and reflections today as my Birthday gift to you. With the hope that these words will remind you of your good fortune and the ways others have been kind to you. I hope that these memories allow you to be and feel grateful. I also hope that my words will remind you of your own goodness and your own kindness. If for nothing more, many of you on this email list have been unbelievably generous with me over the years.
Thank you for allowing me to share and for embracing my words and feelings.