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Jack is really a storyteller, international explorer, and humanitarian and everything else rolls out from there. As a writer, its what he does.  As a trial lawyer and trial skills teacher aroud the world, its his most important tool. As a former CIA officer, the only way to truly motivate people is to connect and to tell them a story that they can feel viscerally.  As a media analyst, what better way to make a point.  In the end, he tries to captivate his audience about the world and its people as much as he himself is captivated.

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Entries in feeding a monk (1)

Sunday
Dec242017

Here I Stand Before this Monk with a Small Red Apple. 

"So, what was the coolest thing you did?" A young friend of the family just asked me this question as I continue to deal with the jet lag, all of the things I missed at the Courthouse while I was gone and still trying to put this entire trip in perspective. "Of all of the things you did in China, Thailand and Cambodia, what's the thing that sticks out most to you?"

Its funny. I want to say a Hmong New Years' celebration in the mountains of Northern Thailand, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, a meeting I had with the Dean of a Law School in Thailand, or an elusive former CIA contact or a whole series of other options. And yet, the only thing that truly comes to mind and springs from my lips is . . . feeding a monk. That's right, feeding a monk.

Every morning, come rain or shine, one will find monks on alms round. They are in full robes and they are out in the community collecting food and sometimes money for their subsistence and for others as well. They never ask, never demand, never beg. They walk humbly, quietly, and only make themselves available to those who approach them.

It is dark, somewhere around 5:30 a.m., and it is unusually cold for this time of year. Nevertheless, I see him quietly walking barefoot up the street and carrying a metal bowl toward where I am standingl. As he approaches, not making eye contact, I say "please" in Thai and hold out what is in my hand.

He approaches, looking at me full in the face for the first time. All I have is an apple, just a small red apple. It isn't much and likely hardly worth walking over to me to get it. But he seems to understand. I am standing here in this spot in the street in Chiang Mai with a specific purpose, to give it to him.

He uncoveres his bowl and looks down, humbly. There is nothing else in the bowl. It is empty. As I place the apple in his bowl, I have a strange feeling of . . . clarity. I think about this monk's purposeful ciurcumstances and his willingness to put himself through this but also the perspective which he chooses to embrace in order to do this.

I then think about my own life, my decisions, and the things that matter to me, as well as the things that I begin to doubt. All of this is due to simply handing a small red apple to a hungry monk.

In our lives, we frequently leave our homes and try to avoid having any contact with those around us out of fear that they will want something from us, something that we possess. As a result, we make sure we don't make eye contact and are frequently obsessed with our cellphones when those who have little or nothing seek us out. Nope, never even see them. 

Strangely, this approach seems to extend into our decisions to travel in the world as well. We stay in five star accomodations and everybody with whom we come into contact speak to us in English. We never want for anything and are never made to feel uncomfrotable. We can say we have traveled to this and that place but in reality we move from one American island to aonther while only looking at our surrounding world from a distance without ever having to step into it, make eye contact or feel the slightest discomfort.

And yet, here I stand in this dirty street with this small red apple hoping it is ok, that it is enough. I'm not at a distance. I am right here in this street staring this monk in the face and feeling . . . what is the word? . . . privileged and a little inadequate. I hope it's enough.

Of course, he accepts my gift. He closes his eyes and his blessings for me begin with an earnest. They continue as he starts to sing softly before me. I am not quite sure what happens after that. It must have started raining and I hadn't noticed because my face is all of a sudden wet.

As he finishes, smiles and goes on his way, I stand there in this street wiping my face, silently. And one thing is clear. This is not about me giving this monk a gift. It is I who have received a gift.

And it is so much more than a small red apple.