Didja ever have a moment where your mouth said “Yes” and your brain said, “What the heck did you just do?????” Well, of course you have. Who hasn’t?
My blog is called My Little Corner of the World because I seldom venture out of it. Its not that it is the Greatest corner in the world, but it is a space where I can get around, where I have People, as the commercial says… People who will come and rescue me from the predicaments I can get in, mostly physical limitations I try very hard to ignore, picking me up when my knee quits suddenly, driving after dark, walking more than a tenth of a mile, being where I can take my bucket load of meds that Lyme’s disease has me taking right now… If I stay close to home, I don’t need my wheel chair, which is a GOOD thing in many ways, but especially since I broke a wheel last summer in a crack in the sidewalk on campus where the Dalai Lama was teaching. The chair has been riding around in the van ever since with one broken wheel which I had not been able to replace. You see, My Little Corner is very remote, 65 miles from the nearest city, north or south, on a long peninsula where we don’t even bother with east and west where directions are up or down, seaside or bayside.
Anyway, life was purring along last week, I was excitedly planning my activities for the WARM 70 degree week-end coming up. It has been a bitter cold winter for us. The daffodils were finally starting to open; the camellias were blooming even if it meant smaller blooms and frost bitten petals. The forsythia across the street opens just before mine, and it was showing yellow. The geese were flying over in great numbers, one of my favorite sounds, the robins were making spring like nesting sounds, life was good, and I could not imagine why anyone would want to be in a city. Ah, what a nice comfort zone.
Then I checked my email. A fellow Buddhist from some 60 miles north, in Salisbury, MD, asked me if I would like to go to DC with him on Monday to do a bit of lobbying on behalf of the human rights issue with China and Tibet, followed by a reception with Richard Gere. Of course, no one knew if Gere would actually BE there – but it was, after all, one of Buddhist Gere’s pet projects. Before I knew what I was doing, my fingers typed YES and I hit the send key. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to take your words back when they have been snapped up by cyber space and zapped into someone else’s inbox? Well, I said to myself, I can always plead a moment of insanity and say I just cannot go. There was NO WAY I could walk all that distance in the city – and I had no idea of just HOW far we would eventually have to travel, and the wheelchair was broken. What was I thinking?
But life is sneaky sometimes.
A young lady I help out from time to time called and needed a ride. I picked her up and took her home. Once there, she asked me if I would drop off a box of things at the Foodbank. When I went in to give them the box, I noticed a very old, very beat up wheel chair being held together with duct tape. Beat up, BUT the front wheels looked the same size as the broken wheel on mine. I bought it for a dollar. They were probably glad to get it out of the shop! A half a can of WD40 later, I got the old wheel off and discovered I did not have the strength to get it on my chair. Just about then my neighbor across the street came home and I yelled to him asking if I could have about 2 minutes of his time. In less than that, the new (old) wheel was on, and I was ready to roll!
The next day was spent madly trying to get all bases covered here so I could disappear for a couple of days. I made hotel reservations in Salisbury for Sunday and Monday nights, and told Don where to meet me early Monday morning. Let me tell you, not all angels have wings. This one drove a Taurus, and pushed my chair for miles all over Capitol Hill, and in and out of buildings, senator’s offices, and eventually to the Caucus room in the Hart building… and brought me home.
We started at the Campaign for Tibet building where there are a gazillion stairs. I sat outside and waited while Don got his information and training. I got mine from him on the sidewalk. I was grateful for the warm temps and sunshine. We met with some of the Tibetan people, refugees and descendants of refugees, and several monks. If you have never met Tibetans, you have missed meeting some of the nicest, friendliest people on earth.
After spending the day talking to our elected congress people or their staff, we finally rolled into the Caucus room. It was starting to fill with Tibetans with their flags and in their native dress – they had been to a rally a few blocks away commemorating the day the Dalai Lama fled Tibet 50 years ago. Staff came in and set up food and an area for drinks while camera crews were setting up to shoot the proceedings. I heard Nancy Pelosi was going to be there and I had high hopes of meeting Barbara Mikulski, the feisty Senator from Maryland. We had been to her office, but she was not there at the time.
As the crowd grew and the food disappeared, it was interesting to watch and listen. From a wheelchair, one is kind of invisible somehow. People might not be as cautious in their conversations as they might have been had I been on my feet. Almost everyone was courteous and friendly except for a certain Senator and the man with him who loudly bashed the damned Democrats and their stupid policies that will surely ruin the country – um, excuse me? Who ruined it already???? He went on about all the great things they did when THEY were in control of Congress (Iraq? Deregulation? The destruction of our economy? Constant terror alerts to keep control over the fearful manipulated public. Did I miss something?) and how Obama was a stupid ass to think he could change anything, come by my office tomorrow, I have something to talk to you about…
His nastiness was drowned out by applause as another speaker introduced Richard (be still my heart) Gere. He WAS there! OMG!
Now, let’s get a couple of things straight. I am not a groupie. Celebrities don’t excite me like they do other people. I worked a couple summer as a stage hand when I was in college at the Pocono Playhouse back in the days when they had REAL stars performing. I worked with Angela Lansbury, Gary Burghoff (Radar on MASH), John Travolta, just to name a few, I met Katherine Hepburn back when I was traveling thru Beirut, so I do not have stars in my eyes as some do. Not braggin', just sayin'. And after studying with His Holiness the Dalai Lama last summer, I have been to the top of the mountain, what else is there? Then, too, I seldom watch movies. I did not even know who Richard Gere was until he shot Runaway Bride here on the Eastern Shore, and my friend supplied the film company the plantings to use in the movie. I watched the movie to see the plants! LOL! However, Gere made me forget about the pansies and impatiens or whatever they had in the planters. He had a Presence. When I found out he was a Buddhist, I became a “fan” – not so much of Richard Gere the actor, but of Richard, the Buddhist.
With my limited mobility (I was having a tough time getting around) I tried to work my way thru the crowd. I got a couple of pictures, and he left. Apparently he had a news interview to do. Much of the crowd also left. After a while, he came back and visited with the groups that were there on behalf of Tibet, not just there to grab something to eat and see who else was there. I went up and spoke to him. I got a hug. The guy that tried to take our picture pushed the wrong button and turned the camera off instead of getting a shot. Oh well – blew my chance at anyone believing I had actually been in the same room with him! LOL! But, I got another chance, this time with a new friend from earlier in the day, Losang (spelling?), a real sweet young man who is currently living in Baltimore.
Somehow we eventually made it home – a day that lasted from 4 AM to 11 PM! But, here is what impressed me the most – with the exception of the Republican Senator and his cohort who had nothing nice to say to anyone about anything (and I know who he was but will be kind and not mention his name) – EVERYONE was as nice and as helpful as they could be. The police on just about every street corner took the time to give us directions, people, total strangers, on the Metro platforms would stop and ask if they could help us as we obviously were looking to find our way. Traveling on the metro with a wheelchair is not easy. I popped into the first seat I could find next to a young black teenage guy. Don stood next to me, helping to hang on to the chair as well as the pole. The young man asked him if he wanted his seat and moved, letting Don sit next to me.
All in all, it was an amazing trip, something I can’t imagine doing, but I did it – and could not have done if not for the kindness of others, especially my neighbor Frank who fixed my wheelchair and Don who pushed it up and down the hills of Washington and got me from pillar to post… an amazing person! Gassho, Don. And to all the Tibetans that I met, what a pleasure being in your company for the day. To all the Senators, Congress folk, and staff, thank you for your time and courtesy. And to the Senator from ____, hopefully you will not be here for another term, go back home and take up gardening where you can cuss at your weeds, not the people who are trying to clean up after you. Buy a book on Mindfulness. Find a local Buddhist group, go hang out, and learn about something besides greed and power. Practice Peace, start with yourself.