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Generosity Comes to Life!

14 Mar 2016 3:41 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

With gratitude to FCM Member Susan Ghosh for this enjoyable recollection and reflection


If you’ve been a part of FCM since we acquired the property at 6501 N. Nebraska Ave. in 2012 you have a good idea of what has been accomplished on our campus since then.  If you’ve started attending the Sunday sangha or other classes and activities at the center in the years since then, allow me to fill you in a bit about what our center was like.  Our main building was a church in disrepair.  The upstairs hall was filled with pews that were nailed to the floor, the window panes were plastic blue and pink, and the floor was dirty and scratched.  Downstairs what we now call the Fellowship Hall was a typical basement with a cement floor and round poles that held up the first floor.  The entire western wall was covered with a mural, painted in dark colors, and each figure in the mural was thickly outlined in black paint.  There, too, the windows were pink and blue.  In the Education Building the floors were covered with old linoleum and the walls were in need of paint. Our “grounds” were covered with weeds and torpedo grass. 


Little by little our campus transformed.  The basement walls were painted, pews were pulled up, wooden floor polished, Med Hall and Hallways were painted; ground covers, shrubs and trees were planted, and on and on and on. Every day this beautiful campus we now have was manifesting. While some things such a roof repair were completed by professionals, hundreds of hours of selfless service were offered by sangha members.


From the outset sangha meetings were held in our new home, so in addition to the ongoing work, our home had to be clean and ready to use every Sunday. If a cloud of dust had been raised, our blue cushions needed to be vacuumed.  The Buddhas, altar, teacher’s table and cushion, all needed to be dusted. The bathrooms had to be clean and ready for use.  


Back in those early days about 20 people (??) regularly came to work days. In addition to all of the large and small jobs that needed to be done a small group of us did a LOT of house cleaning. I recall saying to a sangha sister, “I clean more here than I do at home.”  Another sangha sister and I grumbled as we vacuumed the blue cushions in the 80 degree heat of meditation hall.  We wanted a “cleaning person.” Our teacher, Fred, did not respond to our complaints.  His vision was of a community where individuals selflessly offered their service to the group.  So, on we went.  Over time we learned that this new expectation was just a part of training our minds to put our own personal preferences aside and to find joy in caring for the center. We also were learning what it meant to be a part of a community in which all shared in taking care of the needs of our buildings and grounds, our programs and one another.


My mind was not easily trained, but though it grumbled I learned how to do the necessary tasks. FCM was different in most ways from my family or any other group that I had been a part of and it nourished me tremendously. I wanted to be a contributing member of the group. And, frankly, I wanted to be more like my sangha sisters and brothers who shared themselves so wholeheartedly and found so much joy in doing so. Over time I developed the habit of volunteering when there was work to be done.


Four years later the gifts of our tradition of selfless service have been tremendous. It is wonderful to be a part of the quiet family of workers who sit for 10 minutes on Sunday morning and do a brief meditation before quietly beginning the tasks the allow the center show her beauty to all who come to sangha meetings. Getting to know other members through our friendly bows and the practice of silently mindfully work together on our common goal is very profound.  I have come to see that the center needs all of us and each of us contributes the skills and talents we have. If we choose, we can try out new skills in this safe and supportive environment. 

When I invite family or friends to visit the center I feel a quiet pride and deep gratitude for the opportunity to be a part of the transformation and care of our center.  As soon as people step on our campus they feel the energy and see the beauty of our home. When I say “we’ve done almost all of this ourselves”  I know in my bones that I am a part of “us”. We take care of our buildings, we take care of our grounds, our programs, and one another.  Our teacher, Fred, and our teacher’s teacher, Thay Nhat Hanh, stress the importance of the sangha. Thay says, the next Buddha may manifest as a sangha.”  Here at FCM we have a rich and ongoing opportunity to understand the deep meaning of sangha.


If you have chosen to be a member of FCM, and haven't yet volunteered for selfless service, please know that caring for the center is a privilege of membership. Also, please understand that your help is needed.  As the old adage goes, “many hands make light work.” If you are like me and don’t always have a joyful and generous heart, embrace that part of yourself with kindness and compassion, and allow the part of you that wants to end your own suffering to step forward. I think you will find that caring for the center strengthens your sense of connection to the sangha and being of service will open your heart.

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