Is your neighbor a Buddhist?
By Joy Jones
Do you know someone who is so beloved by animals that they immediately cuddle up to them? Someone who has had things stolen from them and inexplicably returned? Who is “religious” about what they eat and how much they weigh? How about someone who is active in politics and has a progressive mind set? Know anyone who is tolerant of others? What about that person who is genuinely interested in other people? Who gets spotted in a crowd and everyone sings or claps? Do you know someone who moves toward what they dislike in order to change it instead of away? How about that person you know that dropped out of college to pursue a different career path? Who do you know that is a perfectionist? Someone who composes songs? Someone who has helped another get started? What about that person you know that names their fictional characters after family members? Do you know someone whose mother still knits them sweaters?
What do all these people have in common? They were all one person: Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers Neighborhood. I was lucky enough to read a CNN article about him in a friend’s journal the other day. And I found myself wondering, even though he was a Presbyterian minister, if Fred Rogers might not also be Buddhist…because he certainly personified many Eastern principles as well.
I’ve written before about how the idealism behind all faiths is essentially the same. But what about the term “neighbor” itself? The days of borrowing a cup of sugar or having a bit of gossip over the backyard fence are mostly behind us. So it seems to me we have to think in terms of everyone being our neighbor…especially when people are as close as a click or Skype away. With that in mind, you want to look for the qualities listed above as a good reference point for how you choose neighbors. And, interestingly, they probably won’t be the people you expected!
My husband is one of those people that animals love. To our mutual embarrassment, I’m usually ready to cuddle up to anyone else’s pet we come across—but invariably the animal runs right to him! My boss, being a power lifter, is very careful about what he eats and that he weighs enough for his meets. I once enjoyed dinner in a group with Mark Lenard (who played Spock’s father in Star Trek the Original Series). I never forgot how he wanted to hear all about every one of us instead of talk about himself—not what you’d expect in an actor! And I have a cousin who is bravely writing a memoir about her family. Just yesterday, we met a man named Chris on the street who asked us for a dollar. He told us he lives at a homeless shelter downtown, but on the weekends visits his elderly mother and helps her do things she can’t around her home.
I’m proud to have all of these people as my neighbors. Won’t you tell me about yours?
Joy Jones is a syndicated columnist living in Anderson, Ohio. She’s on the same journey you are—to discover what life’s all about. You can also visit The Midwest Buddhist on Facebook, Twitter and Live Journal. Joy appreciates your comments (especially of the positive variety). Email her at email@example.com.