My son admitted to me on the weekend that he is feeling very nervous about going back to school on Wednesday after a two week break. The thought of the bullies lurking in the shadows behind the school gate are preying on his mind.
‘But I am trying to be Zen about it,’ he said.
At first I thought he’d been talking to an old surfer mate of ours, Jono, for whom discussing his Zen-like state is practically his only past time.
To my surprise I found Nick had been reading an old book of mine on the writings of the Dalai Lama.
He had put a stick-it note next to the following passage with the words :
‘When we are faced with an enemy, a person or group of people wishing us harm, we can view this as an opportunity to develop patience and tolerance. We need these qualities; they are useful to us. And the only occasion we have to develop them is when we are challenged by an enemy. So, from this point of view, our enemy is our guru, our teacher. Irrespective of motivation, from our point of view enemies are very beneficial, a blessing.”
When I read this I was beset with guilt that my boy has to deal with people who are treating him badly. In my non-Buddhist, non-Zen-like heart I’m not sure the boys picking on Nick are worthy of any degree of patience or tolerance. Yet I am proud of the maturity he is displaying in addressing this and have to take heart from his willingness to do something about a situation many would run from.
As I closed the book the stick-it note fell out. Written on the other side, in his still child-like scrawl were the words :
I will be a better person after this
The dignity in that statement formed a catch in my throat.
‘You already are a better person, my boy,’ I thought. ‘ You already are.’