Let’s All Get Along
Ven. Samu Sunim, March 2014
I have a friend who is homeless.
I ran into him three years ago
On the northeastern corner of Madison and 60th St.
Ever since, Ken has perched himself there.
All his belongings in one shopping cart,
Sitting in a wooden chair or an office chair with wheels as it happens,
He eats, reads, and sleeps under open sky.
Half of Ken resembles Michael Jordan* of the Chicago Bulls;
The other half Rodney King** who pleaded before the batons of the LAPD.
Like Michael, he is tall and graceful.
Like Rodney, he has the natural dignity of an underdog without bitterness.
Ken does not engage in any act of begging,
Nor does he seek shelter, no matter how cold.
One icy morning, I saw him all bundled up.
When I suggested going to a shelter,
“I’m used to the elements,” was his curt reply.
Since I hail from a homeless and mendicant tradition,
And have struggled for right livelihood in the business world of the market economy,
I felt an affinity and was eager to learn from Ken’s homeless lifestyle.
Renunciants go through severe ascetic practice to realize “Nothing originally.”
Ken’s homeless life affords him complete freedom of movement.
He can enjoy his journey of life free from restraints.
This alone is a great accomplishment.
I was curious how he obtains his food.
He tells me it does not take much to keep his body-mind nourished.
I occasionally see him collecting cans and bottles.
He also cleans up nearby construction sites after workers leave.
I then realized he draws people to himself.
People are inspired by his lifestyle
And attracted to his deportment.
I am one of them.
We brought him offerings.
Some sought advice and counsel.
He enjoyed Starbucks coffee and a hot breakfast.
I compared him to a modern sadhu.***
Someone corrected me, saying he is a life coach.
Ken’s counsel is always simple and clear.
We suffer due to our ignorance.
“The rich suffer, the poor suffer.
Black people suffer, white people suffer.
We learn from suffering.
We are brothers and sisters,
We’re all an interrelated bunch!”
It was Ken’s Rodney King-like outcry for peace and reconciliation,
“Can We All Get Along?”
*Michael Jordan, (1963- ), former professional basketball player for the Chicago Bulls in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
**Rodney King (1965-2012), African-American construction worker who was videotaped being beaten by the LAPD following a high-speed car chase in 1991.
***Sadhu: In Hinduism, a religious ascetic or holy person.