Traveling and meeting new people gives us an opportunity to practice the Buddhist principles that help guide us. Respect is a central principle that we try to practice. When we come to a new campground, we hang out a collage/sign that says, “Respect for All Creatures.” It features pictures of some of our beloved traveling companions of the furry kind. This sign and those creatures help to create conversation and a connection with other campers.
Respect is a feeling of admiration towards someone’s virtues or achievements and expressing that admiration through words and actions. In our travels, we try to stay open to Chance Encounters; opportunities to meet new people who we can learn from in one way or another.
Sometimes, when we first encounter people, we may form an impression of them which is wrong or incomplete, but we do our best to keep talking until we find common ground. To respect a person is to be open enough to take time to get to know them better, to give them the opportunity to reveal other sides of their character, and to make the effort to become aware of their good qualities and, where appropriate, to honour those qualities. The Buddha said that the ability to feel respect is a great blessing. We have been blessed so far on this trip.
We can also respect animals, different religions, the property of others and the environment. Camping puts us in close proximity with all three and gives us the opportunity to respect all of these things. The Buddha said it is good to respect virtues such as hospitality, discipline and awareness. As we become temporary neighbors with people from all walks of life and from many different places, we get to practice these virtues too. So, we thought it might be fun to stop on this rainy day in the Virginia mountains and reflect back on some of the Chance Encounters that have happened so far on the trip. Here are a few folks who have crossed our paths so far who we particularly respected for their accomplishments :
Willard and Bobbie: We had attended a nearly private concert with these two wonderful gentlemen who are well-known on the Mountain Music and Bluegrass scene. In chatting with them and listening to their stories, it was sometimes hard to tell where the line between truth left off and story telling began. Bobbie cracked us up pretty good a couple of times.
He told about a time when an old friend from Galax had to enter a nursing home. Bobbie knew his old buddy had always enjoyed his music over all the many years they had known one another, so he took his guitar over to the home, sat down and played him some of the old songs. After he played and sang for about an hour, Bobbie packed up and got ready to depart. He wished his friend well and said, “ I hope you get better.” HIs friend replied, “ I hope you do too.”
He also told a story about a visitor to the area who stopped off at one of the roadside Springs to get a cool drink of water. As he approached the Spring, he noticed a rather rumpled old woman with tobacco stains running down both sides of her smile. She offered him her gourd to dip himself a drink. His mind raced wondering how to solve this awkward situation. “How can I be gracious and not hurt Granny’s feelings?”, he thought. He examined the gourd and noticed that the long thin handle was hollow. The visitor gratefully took the gourd from Granny, turned it upside down, wrapped his lips around the long handle and drank deeply. Turning to Granny, he said, “Thank you kindly, Ma’am.” She grinned a black toothy grin back and replied, “You’re welcome. Isn’t it funny that you drink from that gourd just like me.”
That one cracked us right up! We have such respect for these two gentlemen who have cultivated a deep appreciation for the culture of where they live. Their hospitality to us as visitors and their generosity in sharing their accomplished music and stories made our visit memorable.
Doris and Bailey: We happened to camp beside an elderly lady who was traveling alone. She was driving a medium-sized Class C Coach that would be a challenge for anyone to negotiate in many situations. Imagine our surprise when she came out of her camper with a very large, muscled and handsome Doberman. Bailey is the kind of dog that you might think would take a very physically able and assertive owner to keep him behaving properly in close campground quarters. But Doris was frail and unsteady on her feet. It was a challenge for her to even come down her stairs and walk to sit at the picnic table. At first glance, it seemed like a puzzling match and we looked at one another with concern. Being a die-hard dog lover, I just had to go over and admire this beautiful animal and ask Doris if she needed any assistance.
Here is the rest of the story: Doris is a retired Licensed AKC Judge of Dobermans and several other working and herding breeds. This is no easy accomplishment. It requires years of experience, training and study. She was a contemporary of many of the people who I grew up with and knew in the dog show world when I was a young person showing and handling. We had a wonderful time talking and reminiscing and it was such a pleasure to meet her. I soon realized that Champion Bailey is the perfect dog for her. He moved carefully around her, taking caution not to knock into her, moving slowly to accommodate her unsteadiness. He sat quietly staring into her eyes as we talked, occasionally putting his massive head into her lap. Doris raised many dogs over the years and, at eight years old, gentle Bailey will most likely be her last. She shared that he gives her a sense of safety and companionship and that, “He is my boy.” I was so touched to meet this woman who was a part of turning the reputation of this amazing breed around and producing dogs like Baily who represent the breed with such dignity. I have so much respect for her accomplishments and her genuine love for the breed.
Nigel: Our meeting with Nigel was an interesting one for Arnie. Nigel is a long distance adventure bicyclist with an interesting story and Arnie was a long distance bicyclist himself for many years. Nigel is from Preston, England, about 40 miles out of Manchester and he had recently flew in to Dulles to begin the Transamerican and another route north. We met him Solon, Virginia at Natural Chimneys campground where he stopped off to shelter over on a rainy chilly night. He is doing about 50 miles per day over 86 days. Arnie enjoyed hearing about his travels on bike through England, Spain and Norway before he tackled the States. We had to respect his stamina and his enthusiasm for seeing the world in this most intimate way. We felt sorry that the weather was being very inhospitable to him, so Arnie went over with a bowl of hot vegetable soup, an egg salad sandwich and rhubarb crisp. We hope that the hot meal reinforces his statement that, “Americans are the friendliness and most welcoming people in the world.”
It takes all kinds and we sure do enjoy our Chance Encounters with all of the characters along the road. They are all teaching us to to take the time to look for and find what unique thing there is to respect about all people and creatures. They make us feel at home wherever we are.