SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 361: “It Ain’t Hell’s Kitchen, It’s Opportunity”

Here I go again, walking up to people in parking lots, and in my own neighborhood none-the-less. How shameless.

And, if you had asked me at the beginning of 365 if I would wander my own area so often, I would have most likely dismissed the notion. Thinking, “I need to travel as far as I can to find a diversity of people, and to meet true strangers.”

Boy was I wrong… Not that I have leaned heavily on my own back yard, but with the pace of every day life and in running a business, there has been many a time where the only option available was to take a local walk. And how sweet it has been, for in every neighborhood outing, I have met a vast range of people, all of who have had something positive to contribute to our mission.

Today is no exception, when having only thirty minutes of free time, on an incredibly busy day; I meet Sumal as he waits in a gym parking lot near my home, killing a bit of time before picking his Uncle up.

Sumal has no reservations in speaking with us, and in his council, gives us perspectives in self-reliance and of the importance of selfless living.

“Do whatever you want to do in life…” Sumal advises, “…but don’t lie to people… we must respect other people’s feelings, and do the correct things, not the bad things. Everything comes from good things, not from bad things. We have to set our target; it’s always going to be a different feeling if you can reach your target by doing good things.”

“What is your target?” I inquire.

“My target…? I’d like to be a chef… I’ve studied five years at home (Sri Lanka), and in this country I’ve already finished my school in culinary. I finished last year… and right now I’m working in a restaurant. I know I cannot be a chef right now, I need to get more experience, it’s a hard job.”

I think of Hells Kitchen as Sumal explains what it is like working the line.

“All the bosses put a pressure on us as the pressure is put on them. Especially on weekends, we are very busy… the line.”

It is apparent that Sumal is doing the works, paying his dues and has his sights set on a personal target. And as he explains his experiences he strongly leans towards stories that prove of his decision to patience and in choosing the good.

He talks of society, “It’s different now… not like the seventies and sixties, when people helped each other. It is not like that now. Now day’s people are very selfish. They are thinking about themselves, not caring about others. If you earn some money… you keep it in your pocket. They don’t think of the poor people who have nothing to eat, and right now very few people give to the people so they can eat some food…”

However, Sumal does take into account the nature of helping people who are in need, “…there is some reason behind it too, because some people take the money, but they don’t eat. They use it for drugs or something else.

People right now… it is very hard to find out who they are, and it’s going to get worse,” Sumal summarizes.

We’ve heard this sentiment from hundreds of new friends over the last year. “It’s going to get worse.” But, along with it has come inspirations to do our parts in bettering our contribution to the world, as well as a vastness of thoughts, from just about every religion, race, gender and age. All telling, and hoping for, a time to come where something will change for the better. And better yet, we’ve met many who are now engaged in the trenches, doing whatever they can in their own circles of influence to plant the good seeds of which Sumal refers.

Sumal sums up a challenge with a sobering comment, “Now days a lot of people have more needs and wants, and too many put their wants before their needs.”

I push a little, “Sumal, what would you tell the people of the world to do about it?”

“Yes, it going to be worse, and everything is going to be destroyed one day… according to my religion (Sumal is Buddhist), just follow the rules and teachings of Buddha and it will be easy to survive.”

Now, as I’ve always stated, my intent is to not be writing a religious blog. While, in interviewing so many, it has been impossible to not feature the words, and beliefs, of the many.

And what is so empowering from this experience is one universal finding, at the core of so many faiths, Christian to Jew, Muslim to Sikh, Buddhist to Hindu, can be found similar guidelines that overlap in an amazing way. We really are so similar at the most basic level of what we all believe.

The rules in which Sumal speaks of:

1) To avoid the training to avoid taking the life of beings.

2) To undertake the training to avoid taking things not given.

3) To undertake the training to avoid sexual misconduct.

4) To undertake the training to refrain from false speech.

5) To undertake the training to abstain from substances which cause intoxication and heedlessness.

Five more days to go to the end of this phase of 365, and for whatever reason, this week is proving to be a week of spiritual enlightenment. I’m not looking for this stuff, or profiling for any one religious, political, environment or social platform.

Only one objective do I keep on the table; that is to do the best I can to fairly represent the people I meet, and to be a random as I can in meeting them.

Whatever the results from the last year may be, I will always be proud to say, “Thank you to all my new friends, your lessons have shaped me in how I will be addressing the rest of my life, and I hope that the same effect will take hold in your heart as well.”

“Hey Richard… Your not done yet, save the sentimentality, you still have strangers to meet.”

Your right, 365 is not over, Plus, it is only just beginning. So readers… Operation 365 is readying to commence. Stay tuned my friends.