Blessed for Success

Our 16th wedding anniversary was on a weekday, and since my husband had to work late, we decided to meet for lunch at a local Thai restaurant getting good reviews. We arrived early, and the place was empty except for the back room of the restaurant. There, draped in layers of soft apricot-colored robes, shorn hair, bare arms and feet, was a group of Buddhist Monks from a local temple.

I felt like staring, but my husband grabbed my arm and forced me to follow behind the hostess to another room in the cheery, warm restaurant. Outside a cold wind blew, and temperatures hovered around 30 degrees, typical for January.

Finally I focused on the menu and tried to bring my attention back to my husband. We were here, after all, to celebrate our marriage, and we were feeling lucky to be strongly committed, while this year, a few friends we knew were dealing with difficult divorces.

When she took our order, we told the waitress that it was our anniversary today, and we were celebrating. She smiled and told us that it was also the restaurant’s anniversary today. They had opened four years ago.

We sat down and ordered tea, and while we waited, the sound of chanting began slowly and quietly. The chanting picked up speed and had a lilting, musical quality to it. The sound reverberated through the restaurant like we were in an ancient cathedral. I practically jumped out of my seat, because I was really wanted to see what was going on. I brought my phone, planning to take a surreptitious photo. I snuck to the side and saw the Monks sitting together, their hands in prayer, while they chanted in perfect harmony.

Candlelight flickered against the walls. The few people in the restaurant started bopping their heads, tapping their feet and smiling at the sound. My husband couldn’t resist either and joined me to watch from the shadows. We had never seen a ritual like this before.

The chanting ended, so we returned to our seats. The meal arrived and we asked the waitress what the Monks were doing: “Was this a meeting or a lunch of some kind?” She said they were here to bless the restaurant and bring it success in the future. She said they would bless every room, and pointed to herself where tiny drops of water dribbled over her apron. “They bless me too,” she exclaimed with joy.

We sat there trying to concentrate on the delicious, spicy food, but the chanting started again. We couldn’t stop grinning at one another or at the other patrons. What amazing good fortune--to be here when this event was happening. To share in this spiritual renewal and celebration of life and community.

Next, we saw that the leader of the Monks was up and followed by one of his helpers. The leader walked slowly across the cold floors as he shook out twigs gathered by twine and dipped in holy water. The helper walked by his side carrying an ornate silver bowl of water. You could see the sprinkles gathering on the restaurant’s walls, tables, and eventually he made it to us. I am not a religious person, but something about this touched me so completely that I almost broke into tears when the Monk shook his twig brush and droplets landed on my arm.

My husband leaned in too and caught the spray. We both looked at each other hopefully. Moments like this bond you together; it helps to remind of your good fortune. The leader returned to his seat and the Monks gathered up their robes to begin heading to the van parked outside. The frigid wind blew their robes around crazily, but they looked completely serene as they climbed into the van.

The leader was saying his goodbyes to the servers and owner, when I ran out the door. I asked if I could take a picture with him. He laughed heartily, agreeing, but then said, “No touch” when I leaned closer. After the photo, he looked into my eyes and bowed. “Come to our temple sometime, it’s on Layhill Road.” I was touched by the invitation and vowed to visit someday.

The Monks had an aura of kindness, gentleness and purity that you don’t see often in this world. The peaceful warmth of those Monks faded as they drove away, behind them honking traffic and blaring sounds of daily life filled the air.

But it looked like this anniversary was starting out right.

 

 

 

 

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