During our father-daughter trip to New York City, Kid-A was learning to negotiate the crush of humanity in the ultra urban landscape. Being the father, I pretended that I knew what I was doing, and she followed my lead. One of the tactics of city life that I rely on is a polite ‘sorry’ or ‘thanks’ towards others, huddled, kneeling, or standing, either trying to give something away or ask for something. I’m sure I don’t understand fully if this is the right thing to do, but it’s reliable in my flow chart of decision making. It means that I don’t get unwanted fliers or unneeded drugs; and it simplifies the decision of whether or not I can spare any change, even if that’s morally agonizing.
Since she was following my lead, it was confusing to my daughter when I had a break in policy. It only happened once, only on our final day in Manhattan, and only because I was enamored with the Buddhist monk clad in orange. Of course I would talk to him, even navigating broken English with non-verbals and repeated questions. His eyes were bright behind his glasses and there was a genuine, welcoming warmth from the shake of his hand. There in the shadow of a skyscraper and in the aural wash of taxis honking and streets humming, he offered me “lifetime peace.” This struck me, even as my daughter looked on with uncertainty. Unlike the fliers or the pot offered to me in previous days, I thought this seemed like a proposition I couldn’t refuse. He put a bracelet of wood beads on my wrist and repeated: “Lifetime peace.”
But then he suggested it would cost $20.
It was a donation, of course, but he was insistent, and seemed (or pretended) not to understand my statement that I didn’t have $20, that I wasn’t really interested in the contribution. But he’d already had me write my name down in his book, and there was a blank space where a dollar amount was anticipated. I insisted I really didn’t have any money.
I talked him down to $5.
For lifetime peace, $20, obviously, was a good price. So even though I hadn’t really planned to pay any amount of money, I think I got a good deal. (It was the least amount of money exchanged on any transaction on the trip.) I ended up keeping the bracelet on my wrist, and the extra gold medallion — a sort of receipt, I suspect — was tucked into my notebook. It would be many hours before I realized I still was wearing the beads, which surprised me because I’m not an accessory kind of guy. Kid-A was impressed with my newfound fashion sense. And even days later, I was still wearing the beads, even on the flight home. It was strangely uninhibiting and nonbothersome. I suppose that’s exactly how peace should be delivered.
I did eventually take the bracelet off, not sure how to explain its presence on my wrist; but I was still glad that I had the beads to remind me of my break in policy, the meeting with a spiritual mentor, and maybe the general experience of the City. The gold marker was put to use during my flight home as a placeholder in my book. Just recently I finished that book and I harvested the “lifetime peace” medallion, reuniting it with the bracelet and giving me a moment of pause and flashback to my $5 donation.
This morning I missed a yoga class. I’ve been wrestling with electrical work in our hallway. I’m trying to understand the psyche and needs of our 12-year-old. I’m positioned in a metaphorical athletic stance — the one that you learn playing defense or getting ready to return serve — on my multiarmed project and a squall developing back at the office. These are challenges. I put the bracelet back on. I have lifetime peace. It’s okay.