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A Homeless Man and His Dog

January 13, 2013

by Stephen Damon

The other day, as I was driving to work on one of the coldest mornings of the year, I saw a young man crossing the street with his small dog. The rips and tears of his oversized coat revealed many layers of clothing. His overstuffed backpack seemed to contain everything that he had to survive the winter. His long, scraggly hair and beard seemed that they hadn’t been washed in a very long time. He looked like many of the homeless men and women that I see on the sidewalks of San Francisco.

My attention quickly turned towards the man’s dog, a Chihuahua, that was dressed in a brightly colored jacket. I have a small dog, but I have resisted the temptation to dress her in sweaters or rain coats. That kind of thing was for people who had nothing better to do than try to make their pets into people. I let go of that opinion when I saw this unfortunate man and his dog. He wasn’t trying to turn his dog into anything other than his companion on long, lonely nights on the streets and in the parks. He obviously had no money to spend on anything that was not essential. Keeping his dog warm was an essential. He seemed to care more for his dog’s comfort than his own.

Taking in this scene I was filled with feelings of respect and compassion for the young man. This feeling was so large, so comprehensive that it filled my entire awareness—all my thoughts and even the sense of my body were flooded with compassion. How interesting! Before I had seen this man I wasn’t aware of any feeling on what seemed like just another morning on my way to work. But seeing this homeless man’s care for his small dog awakened something very deep and “very big” inside of me. There were no more thoughts of “homelessness” or “man,” or “hunger.” There were no thoughts at all. There was just compassion. I was compassion!

So I got out of my car and went up to the man and asked if he needed anything. He just smiled broadly and continued on his way. I have met high lamas from Tibet, great Zen teachers, and other spiritually established men and women whose teachings have helped me make significant changes in my life. But the other day I had met a Bodhisattva whose silent smile changed…everything.


From → Zen Buddhism

One Comment
  1. How wonderful! Buddhas everywhere…

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