Loving the Stranger

This year I am the International Chair of a historic retreat in India, which has meant a lot of travel to organize the event. In December I went to Taiwan for many planning meetings. I asked for the support of one of our lineage centers as I needed to be there for quite some time. The Garchen Institute kindly offered a room and office support (Each of our centers is entirely separate, with different projects and concerns assigned by the leading Rinpoche of that center.) Which is to say I asked His Holiness’s office to arrange housing, basically inviting myself to stay for a month in HE Garchen Rinpoche’s Dharma Center. So, a stranger, not working on a Garchen project, comes for a month!  This already is a big ask.

The director, Mrs. Christine Hsu and the entire staff of about six were very welcoming and considerate. They prepared a lovely room, hosted a welcome dinner and assigned Lenny, one of the staff, to answer any questions and thoroughly orient me to the Dharma Center and the neighborhood. They made an offering to me for food and gave me use of the kitchen. They also included me in the delicious lunches that were prepared for the office staff every day by Mei Jing. I settled in for a long stay.

Then I got pneumonia. What I thought was a cold, got worse and worse. Lenny arranged for several doctor visits, but by the end of the first week I was so sick I could not breathe. I called Lenny at one in the morning and he escorted me to the emergency ward. You can imagine how fragile I felt in that state, unable to communicate directly with the doctors as I do not speak any Chinese. Lenny kept a close watch all night as I waited for a bed.

The next morning, the whole Center turned the full force of their loving kindness to helping me in every way. Mrs Hsu and her nephew Derek arrived to take over and quickly had me transferred to a branch hospital that had rooms. They insured that an excellent doctor was my physician ( Dr. Lin Heng YI turned out to be the president of the hospital and a respiratory medicine specialist.)  Immediately, Mei Yuan and Pei Ying were asked to take shifts so I could have 24/7 help, supervision and translation. They have become like sisters, spending a week with me in the hospital. Mrs Hsu came to the hospital three times a day for most of the week to make sure all was well, bringing soft blankets and pillows from her home. She totally made me feel safe and secure, reassuring me we were family now. She had Pei Ying start a log tracking every medicine and procedure. Pei Ying quickly added me to the Line-chat group so the whole office could follow my progress. She kept a close watch, making sure I took all the medicine correctly, turning into a practical nurse while she kept up her office duties on her computer.

Every day my new friends demonstrated their warm hearts. Mei brought towels, soaps and lotions, cups and thermoses so I had hot tea and luxuries to supplement my travel supplies. She made her grandmothers herbal remedy drink (made from a kumquat? and tasted a little like peanuts). Mai Jin, the center chef, sent many treats every day to supplement the hospital food, sliced fresh fruit, radish and egg pancakes and one day even a Chinese cake. Every day she made fresh fruit smoothies and her grandmother’s remedy; a tea and brown rice drink that tasted like nectar when I was very sick. She also did my laundry. Derek brought me a daily sandwich from a coffee shop so I also could have familiar food. One day he waited in line 20 minutes braving the brunch crowd, and one day on a bagel! All of the staff visited at least once, Lenny snuck in sparkling water and coke – my favorite drinks, but not recommended by Chinese medicine. By the week’s end I had to plead with them that one visit a day was fine and to please rest on the weekend.

They cared for me the way I would for my sister or mother, even better perhaps. I have learned a lot about loving kindness through them.  We sometimes say we can see the greatness of a teacher by the actions of their students. This experience has demonstrated for me Tara in action; HE Garchen Rinpoche’s love for all beings through his disciples. I will always use this experience as an ideal when I pray for the welfare of suffering beings. May we all feel so safe and tenderly treated.

May all traveling beings feel the protection of loving kindness, from  recovering well,  Khenmo