Thursday, November 27, 2008

My Friend, Swami

A Thanksgiving Story -- For nearly two years, I visited Venice Beach every Saturday. I picked up my friend from Zimbabwe in L.A., as well as two Starbucks coffees. Along the famous Venice boardwalk, we gave people bagels donated from Noah's Bagels and offered to tell people all about God, but only who were interested. At first, many pushed us away and/or told us off; one man even spit on me. Over time, they began to learn that I was not forcing "religion" on them, instead, we offered them an alternative to their way of living--it was their choice. My job was to be an ambassador.

During this time, I made lots of friends, most of which were of religions other than my own. We respected each other and in turn, I ended up learning a lot about their beliefs.

Swami (as he liked to be called), became a friend and ally. Swami and I looked out for each other. We shared each others meals, stories and spent hours talking about life, values and ideas. Eventually, Swami left Los Angeles for India to be with his family.

The gentleman who spit on me later allowed me to take his portrait. I returned the next week with a 5 x 7 of himself. With a tear in his eye, he smiled and explained, "No one has taken my picture since I was a boy." We too became friends.

I have a lot to be thankful for on this day.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Tanya said...

What a great Thanksgiving story. Honestly, the part about the guy who spit on you, warmed my heart at the end.
Wonderful job you have done :)
Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope said...

JT, I have read this post while the rest of my family sleeps. I love the quiet of the early morning and decided to surf through CDP. I'm so glad I chose your blog to read this morning.

Your post has brought a lump to my throat. We do have so much to be thankful for and friends are very high on the list. You have made some wonderful friends ...some who were reluctant at the beginning but eventually saw your sincerity and that your truly cared for them as people.

What you are doing at the Venice boardwalk is not something that all folks are willing to do. I admire you for reaching out to others in this way. You have a message to deliver but are offering it as a gift and people can accept it or not.

I send Happy Thanksgiving wishes your way and hope that you enjoy every moment of this day with your family and friends! Oh yeah, and enjoy all the good food too!

JT said...

T & H: Thank you for your kind words. My heart was lifted as I read your comments.

Miss Havisham said...

You are a beautiful sunflower inside.

Petrea said...

What a great story, JT. To my mind, that's the way to talk about religion. Offer your knowledge without forcing, then listen to that of others without judgment. Quite beautiful and rare, in my experience. Such gifts you've given, and received.

The portrait is extraordinary.