It was Christmas time in the village. There was something about all the rituals of Christmas that seemed a little empty to him this year.
‘What can I give Aunty so and so, I haven’t seen her since last year.’
It was also to be his first Christmas without his grandfather, smoking his pipe and telling stories of ships in far away places with a glint in his eye. He would miss him so much.
Wrapping up all the socks for the people he hardly knew at all he regretted all the times he had rushed along with his head down and not even saying hello.
‘And I wasn’t really so busy,’ he thought. I just didn’t know what to say. ‘Oh dear, oh dear..’ he muttered to himself.
Actually there were so many things he hadn’t said, about his sadness over his grandfather. There were so many other things he did not know where to start. Sometimes he thought something was going to burst inside.
And then what was he going to say at the parties he didn’t really want to go to...oh dear, oh dear...he remembered the last one where the only relief he found from all the noise was in the toilet..he had stood there taking a pee and wondering why he was there at all…
Most sadly of all, perhaps, he didn’t realise that other people felt the same as him and that even the confident extroverts of the group liked his quiet presence.
As he cast his mind around the little village he yearned emotionally for the sense of a wider family but he couldn’t seem to find it. He straightened himself up to somehow show that he didn’t need anyone. The truth was that his pride was such that he couldn’t really feel that he needed anyone though he surely did. But then he didn’t really know the shopkeepers or anyone, he was always in a bit of a rush, wasn’t he?
He put his coat on and headed for the shop not quite knowing why he was going. The thought of chocolate popped up from nowhere and thankfully, it seemed, took him onto automatic. But as he walked along even this could not overcome his sense of despair. He sat on the bench at the bus stop. He needed to stop and reflect, he was feeling emotionally a little overwhelmed. Much to his dismay people started to gather to wait for the bus. He hardly knew the people and didn’t know what to say but he felt embarrassed to walk away.
‘It is not very usual for someone to be sitting there, never mind someone in such an emotional state,’ he thought. He was worried that he would make others feel awkward and tried to think how he could look in order not to bother anybody. He realised he had his phone in his pocket. He took it out and disappeared behind the little screen. He pretended to be busy with something, he was good at that. The bus arrived. A young girl looked at him questioningly as she got on the bus and left him sat there. There was only one bus that came through the village. He knew he had been exposed as a mere pedestrian. And she was pretty, he found himself suddenly wanting to look good and that made it all even worse. He was hoping she could not see that he was unhappy and managed an awkward smile. But it was too late, she had already boarded the bus. He felt lonely and forlorn. Life suddenly felt rather meaningless.
‘Surely there must be more to life than all this,’ he thought, holding his head in his hands.
He decided to take a walk and headed away from the village and the people straight for the forest. Approaching the forest he loved so much he bowed his head to the guardians of the forest before he entered as was his custom. Usually this felt a natural thing to do, today it felt very awkward, he just felt awkward all over. But the forest had been so much part of his life from when he was very young, he soon found himself leaving the village behind in his mind and relaxing, losing himself and feeling at one with the scene around him as he found his way along the path. When he reached his favourite spot, carpeted in moss, where the pines towered over him, so straight and true he found himself bowing his head again, almost as if in prayer. Showing respect, lessening himself in this way, made the forest all the grander and this grandeur served as his welcome in return.
Suddenly, walking through the trees they seemed to him like the wider family he wished for, silent as they were there was nothing awkward. His silence felt accepted and he somehow returned home inside to a place he knew so well. If only he could find this same feeling from the people around him, he thought.
All this was the reason he was to seek refuge at the local Buddhist monastery, many years later, wishing so much that he had had the courage to go there many years before. For there he was to find the same silence and the sense of a wider, accepting family he had always been looking for. He was to meet a monk who was still often not quite sure what to say to people but had learned to love them anyway. And gradually he was to find a whole new identity and way of being in the world that had something new to say and to offer to his dear village.
And they would all live happily ever after...
I offer this for your reflection