The first knockOn Mon, 30 July, 2018 - 15:31
I was already late. And it was hot. Very hot. Indian hot. The adrenaline had taken me so far but now my legs were palpably wobbling as I approached the last bend before my destination. The hasty bowl of muesli rumbled restlesslessly in my stomach, rising and falling as the urge to vomit repeatedly came and subsided… Hold it together man…
I’ve been here before - exams, big talks, lesson observations when I was a trainee teacher - and deep down I know it bodes well, if I can just stay on course and make a start. I also remind myself that these feelings mean that what I’m doing matters. I fumble around with my stuff in my bag, pens and direct debit forms falling onto the bleached grass at my feet. But I’m ready.
No, I’m not… But it’s too late to go back now.
The door seems to come to me, rather than me to it, and I knock. It opens. I stumble through a pre-meditated pitch - half over-enthusiasm, half apology - the householder politely declines, sparing me a sympathetic look as the door closes. And that’s it.
Have I really signed up to six weeks of this?
But the ice is broken and I feel emboldened. Ring. No response. Knock. No response. Knock. A smile! I hand over a booklet and make an appointment to return. And so it continues… Vacant properties, rejections, bath-times, and the occasional spark of goodwill from a complete stranger… over and over but no two the same.
This is my first Karuna appeal - and I arrive with a whole mixture of feelings and expectations. Seeing some of the work of Karuna’s partners in India earlier on this year and hearing of the transformative effects of these six-week appeals on their volunteers, I’ve been looking forward to the chance to contribute to the cause and to challenge myself in the process. And I feel that, even at the end of week one, I have got a lot from the experience, and had a chance to give something to these worthy projects in India and Nepal.
Even before this appeal, a perennial working ground for me has been my communication. Basically, I love to tell people what I think (sometimes regardless of whether they want to hear it)! This tendency is already being sensitively reflected back to me in my interactions with others in the community - Teja Kula, ‘Family of Fire’ - and with the householders I meet, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to see it and address it head-on. And I’m beginning to feel the pull of a new dimension of communication, the likes of which I’ve only able to glimpse from afar before now.
In the community, I’m alongside Vajragupta, Declan from Dublin, Chris from Cambridge and Ramesh from Pune, India. And we’re being steered by Mike and Kusaladevi with inspiring kindness, patience, and wisdom. In our training the learning curve has been steep and there is already an astonishingly high degree of trust between us. I hope this will stand us in good stead as the weight of our collective undertaking begins to make its presence felt.
As a final point for now, I’ve been loving the interactions with people - all sorts of random people - over the last week. Often when I’m out and about at home I can be ‘purposeful’ to the point of losing track of those around me. Doing this appeal so far has felt like being given permission to be more spontaneous - to stop and chat with people taking photos of the moon, to risk asking a personal question or two of total strangers, and simply to be a benign Buddhist presence in the neighbourhood… my confidence is increasing in communication, and what a sense of abundance this can bring!