Cotton Balls – my experience in Houston
I just returned from a 5 day trip to Houston. Below is a summary of events I sent to the folks there. I thought I would share with everyone so that we can see that wonderful people exist everywhere. Everyone I met, through some connection with Maushmi, made me realize how lucky we are to have each other.
Love exists everywhere. You can find it in the plane seat next to you, in cotton balls that lie scattered across the floor, and in strings of pasta that unexpectedly find their way to your plate.
It was extraordinary. Who would have thought that I would find newfound determination in the heart of Texas. People make their way across many oceans to find themselves. Some walk for days in search of truth. My pilgrimage takes me to Texas. To an Italian Restaurant where the noise of our neighbors doesn’t disturb the silence in our hearts.
Words are never enough, so with folded hands I bow.
Wednesday night. As soon as I arrived I was handed a set of keys. One of them was to a home, another to a car, and yet they all unlocked something deep within me. Generosity. Afterwards I ate a hand cooked Gujarati meal. If you haven’t tried Maushmi’s Mom’s rice pudding you must insist on a meal at their place!!!
Thursday. Maushmi took me to the Houston Hospice. I saw the rooms where some of the past Compassion Cell Magic had taken place. I breathed the entire place in: the volunteers, the visitors, and the current residents. I felt proud that I was part of an organization that had done some good there. It was an honor to walk through those floors.
I made my way to the Thomas Street AIDS clinic that had been decorated by some volunteers the night before. I breathed in all that they had left behind. I envisioned the volunteers working together to beautify the clinic. I then looked into the eyes of the patients. Their faces broken down by years of pain, stigma and concern. This quote kept running through my mind: “Our happiness is greatest when we contribute to the happiness of others”. Each and every decoration left behind was a sign of hope to a disenfranchised community that is forgotten by so many. I bumped into Jackie, the volunteer coordinator. She gave me the history of the clinic and told me the story of how she lost her son to the disease. My tour naturally ended at the meditation hall. I sat there for 30 minutes thinking of how much goodness had been generated at this clinic the night before.
Although I was full of words at the time, thinking of Thursday evening now leaves me speechless. Goodness flowing in every direction. We questioned ‘service’, our own human nature, and the genuinity of our desire to make the world a better place. In that moment, my world became a better place. I went from being a Californian, to a guest, to a family member in a few short minutes. Houston became home.
Friday. I met Margo. As with everyone else, I felt as if I had known her before. We talked about this movement of life that we are all engaged in, and what it means to be a parent in today’s world. I felt like her son.
Saturday. Every week should have a day of fun. … and everyone should have a friend like Katania. She walked in with bags full of things to play with. We spent the entire afternoon making cards, necklaces, drawing, gluing cotton balls, laughing, and most importantly nourishing something within ourselves that we had been neglecting for some time. It was all inspired by this one quote: “Compassion for others begins with kindness to yourself”. A day of being kind to ourselves was exactly what the doctor ordered.
Sunday. We started at the Sikh Temple. After eating lunch we were inspired to serve. We spent the next few hours washing all the pots & pans and sweeping the entire floor. A priest at the temple, in his broken English, shared with us how important service and meditation is. In the evening we checked out the Hare Krishna Temple after sitting in silence for an entire hour.
Monday. Maushmi and I checked out a park and a coffee shop. Who knows? Maybe a Walk for Hope or a Seva Cafe in Houston at some point? As we said goodbye, she handed me a card from some of the volunteers and a certificate that said that a little girl named ‘Priccila’ had received cleft palate surgery in our honor. It seems that our friendships not only enrich our own lives but continue to benefit others as well.
I’m not sure if all good things need to come to an end. I think that all good things continue forward and expand outward. Something deep within me changed this week. I told Maushmi that all I was bringing to Houston was emptiness, hoping to fill myself with goodness that I could share in California. Filled with your goodness, I am grateful for the way you have welcomed me. You all are now officially invited to Southern California to hang out with our family here.
All good things continue forward. Like water that drops to the earth, and returns upward again one day, I hope to return back to my home in Houston some day.