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A Sunday Morning of Connection

3 Mar 2024 10:28 PM | Anonymous

I recently visited a Vietnamese Buddhist temple on a Sunday morning. Community and togetherness were foremost in my mind as I took my first look inside. Upon entering, I noticed people glancing at me from the corners of their eyes. Of course, I felt somewhat alien, lost, new, and out of place. I was a new kid in school!

A tiny, elderly lady approached me, asking if I needed directions. I explained that my curiosity about the temple, often observed bustling with people every Sunday morning, had brought me here. As an artist, I am captivated by how different lighting—be it from the sun, rain, evening sky, or streetlights at night—plays upon the temple's exterior. That morning, I decided to venture inside. I've always been intrigued by Buddhism; its values resonate with me deeply, almost as if they were part of my own skin and cells. The lady gave me this warm smile, it put me at ease. She mentioned that on Sundays, services are held on the temple's second floor. I nodded, listening intently. It was 10:15. She invited me to remove my shoes and explore the temple with a welcoming demeanor.

The lady gave me this warm smile.

Upstairs, the place was stunning – golden Buddha statues, and rows of little books on these stands. While I was absorbed in a book, a man informed me that it was their 'bible'. I absorbed this new information with a smile as he returned to his prayers.

I decided to meditate for a bit, planning to head out before their main service at 11. The lady I met earlier came upstairs and sat a few bookstands ahead. After a few minutes, she joined me and explained the service—its format, who leads it, and what follows. As we talked, the room began to fill. She encouraged me to stay for the service and even suggested staying for lunch, which was complimentary—a fact she conveyed with a wink. I was cautious, not wanting to be rude in a new community, so I remained gentle in my actions. I wondered if it would be impolite to partake in the meal without being a regular member.

The master monk entered, and the Yin monk approached the lady, likely having observed our conversation. He asked her in Vietnamese to keep me informed and invited me to lunch. She translated for me, and my heart filled with warmth once more. I felt incredibly welcomed by this community. They had not only ensured that I understood their values and culture but had also invited me to be part of it.

The service wrapped up after about an hour and a half. I might not have understood the chanting, but there was something about the sound and vibrations that just washed over me, leaving a trail of peace. As the service ended, the monk began handing out invites to their New Year celebration on February 9th. He even gave one to me. The kind-hearted grandmother, with a twinkle in her eye, urged me to come along, playfully pointing out that a lot of young folks would be there. Her warm, thoughtful invitation got me thinking about all the reasons I'd love to come back.

After the service, she guided me downstairs to these long, welcoming wooden dining tables. She had already saved a spot for me right next to her and her charming 80-year-old 'best friend'. Just before we started eating, she let me in on a little tradition – everyone at the table would join in for a prayer. It was a beautiful moment of unity. From a distance, the monk, with a caring tone, let everyone know in Vietnamese about the peanuts in the food. The grandmother quickly translated for me, ensuring I was in the loop.

Throughout the meal, the grandmother introduced me to everyone at our large table. We shared stories about our visits to the temple, our daily lives, and our collective love for Buddha, food, the sense of community that brought us all together.

This whole experience took me back to a conversation I once had with the network hub Ambassador team and Tracy. We were brainstorming about how we wanted people to feel when they join the network hub community, and how we hoped we would feel if we entered a new community. This day at the temple, it hit me – this was exactly it. Feeling welcomed and informed, met with smiles and open arms. A sense of belonging and joy, comfortable enough for open, honest conversations. And, most importantly, building those connections that make you eager to come back. Because in the end, it’s all about the people, the bonds we form, and gathering around a cause that unites us all.

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