Most mornings after grabbing my coffee I will either walk out on my front porch or look out of the window in the small room off the main body of the house. Even though the window view continues to reveal the same area, I find that I see different things as time goes by. It is the same area on earth but it tends to reveal a different picture the more I look at it. The picture is very different as the view goes from the springtime to the wintertime. I’m able by just sitting in one location to watch the birth of the forest with its trees, leaves, and flowers. Each day brings a slightly different picture and yet over time the picture becomes completely different. My eyes have become the window from which I view life.
Looking out the window today most of the trees have lost their leaves, yet a few stubbornly hang on to the brightly colored leaves. It makes me think of my time in life. I’m not at the end of my time on this Earth and I am not at the beginning of time on this Earth. So I’m going to review some of the pictures of life that I thought I knew when I was young and I now wonder if I know them at all as I’m older.
Let’s begin with the picture of love. As a young man I experienced the many different forms of love as most of you have also done. In the simplest of times I loved my family but I was more likely to state my love for baseball. I can remember my mother setting up a TV tray so I could run home from the school which was nearby and watch the World Series on the television. I was such a devout fan and I loved baseball so much that I would sprint home as soon as possible from the school and stay as long as possible before running back to the school just so I could watch baseball. In those simple times I loved to put on the baseball uniform and either play in a game or watch a game.
I was in high school when I fell in love with a girl. All of a sudden the world of baseball became interrupted by my infatuation for one girl. I had not experienced sex yet so my infatuation was all about the feeling of love for one person. Fortunately for me, after breaking up with that girl, I found that I was able to follow love again and again. However, each time that I looked at the picture of love I saw it in a different light and pursued it in a different way.
At the end of my high school years I began to feel a love for my country, The United States of America or as we called it “America”. I went from a feeling of pride into a deep feeling of love for my country and what I thought it represented at that time. So I like many other young men joined the Army and ended up fighting in Vietnam. Before reaching Vietnam, I totally believe that America was infallible and I loved the opportunity of fighting for America. While serving I developed a new kind of love and that was the love I felt for my fellow soldiers. When one of my fellow soldiers was killed in action, I would cry and feel a deep loss just as if they were a member of my family.
Later on in life while in love with one girl again, I also had the great fortune of falling in love with my children and their children. This again was a new kind of love to experience and it has continues from its first moments of the new life.
Now, let me also look at the picture called pride. As a young man I was very proud of my mom and dad. After going to school I became very proud of my school and my community. For many of the years there was only one place: and that was my family, my school, my community and my church.
As life went on I felt great pride in my job as a policeman. It was like the pride I felt in my school and my community and it became the same pride I felt in my job and the Los Angeles Police Department. During those years I took pride in my accomplishments and my education.
In the later years I took pride in making it to retirement. I am proud of my family and other extended family members. My family is fortunate in that they are able to enjoy all the pleasures of living in America that I have enjoyed. I am proud of being a veteran and having served my country. And selflessly I am proud that I still have my health and that I can enjoy riding a motorcycle, driving a tractor and still have the energy to chase my wife around the house.
I am always amazed of how my views of the pictures before me continue to change. I mentioned earlier of my pride in my church. While growing up the only religion that I ever heard of was Christianity. There was the Catholic Church, the Methodist Church, the Protestant church and I had heard of, but not seen, a Jewish Temple. It was not until I went to Vietnam that I was introduced to the many different religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. Unfortunately, the views I had of those religions were not good. For some reason I looked down upon anybody that wasn’t like me. Certainly, the temples did not look like the small white church with the steeple in front that I was familiar list.
Even though I had heard of Jews in my younger years, I had never been around a Jewish family or synagogue. And like most middle-class, Midwest small towns, all I ever heard was bad jokes about Jewish people. So of course when I first met them, while in the Army, my view of my fellow Jewish soldier was of some disdain. I never heard of the Holocaust nor had I seen or heard from a Rabbi. By the time I was middle-aged the picture of the Jewish faith had completely changed. I began to appreciate and accept the fact that there was a religion different than the one I grew up with.
Still I had not seen many other religions in the picture that I was getting at that time. It was in Vietnam that I got my first exposure to Buddhism. While on patrol, in and out of the small villages of Vietnam, I would see what I first described as small baldheaded men dressed in orange robes. I had not heard the term monk since reading about the Middle Ages and the monks like the fictitious Friar Tuck of the Robin Hood story. At first it was obvious that the monks in Viet Nam were not Christian monks from the 14th century.
There were times of calm between the battles. I was introduced to a Buddhist monk and I spent some time, via a translator, talking to the monk. I left those conversations with a better appreciation of the Buddhist and their monks. Even in the hell that is war there was peace in the religion. After the war and while working on the police department I was introduced to the followers of Islam. I must admit at first it appeared that only the black population in Los Angeles had become involved and converted to Islam. It was when Cassius Clay became Mohammed Ali that made me begin to look deeper into the religion. I found all different races and countries following the Nation of Islam. With all the conflict in the Middle East it was hard to stay positive about the religion. But while in Los Angeles I again got to speak to one of the clerics, this time I do not have to use a translator, only to find a decent person and religion.
My next exposure was to a Hindu religion sect called Hare Krishna who greeted me at the San Francisco airport as I departed the plane still dressed in my jungle fatigues. There were people at the airport who spit at me, called me a warmonger and a child killer. Then there was this curious group of young people with shaved heads dressed in that same orange robe trying to give me a flower while singing the same song over and over and over and over. While working on the police department I was again introduced to the Hare Krishna group of young people. It was usually because the young people of the neighborhood, where the Hare Krishna were chanting, had beaten the crap out of Hare Krishna followers. It seemed to me that the tolerance of other religions had not gone well in America. It was during that time that again, the picture that I viewed when it came to a different religion had changed. I realized that the religions had not asked for war or hatred, but for peace and harmony in their own different way.
Many years later I was again introduced to a Hindu family. The family is my son’s in-laws. That family is representative of the many Hindu families in America. What I saw in my youth was a group of young men and women dancing around the streets of Los Angeles singing the same song over and over. What I saw this time was the picture of a hard-working family based network of people. I asked my son if it would be okay to talk to his father-in-law about his religion. I found that father-in-law was a Swaminarayan Hindu, a Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) which is a socio-spiritual Hindu organization. As the saying goes, this was all Greek to me (I do not speak Greek). But I found the father-in-law to be genuinely proud and in love with his religion. On one occasion another family member took me to the Swaminarayan Temple in Houston. The Temple was most impressive, but even more impressive to me was the people at the Temple. I watched as a long line of men and women waited to eat at the Temple grounds. What I observed was a group of modest people waiting patiently to support their religion. There was no glitz or glamour in any of the people walking around the grounds. I might say that it was a group of everyday people working with a common purpose in a beautiful setting. The original picture of a Hindu had changed my first view.
Just like the pictures of the Jewish religion, Buddhist and Islam: my views have changed. The original picture of just my small town church being the only religion to the discovery of the many different religions was huge. In looking at my picture of the world through my window I again observed and appreciate the change in each days view. I know that every group of people has their extremist members. Even though the daily news that I watch on television is full of despair, I know that there are groups of people who bring hope. It seems to me that no matter what religion you look at they all want good things for those around us.
As I take another look out my window, I again see seasonal changes occurring. My thought is that you should look through your window. I think you’ll find that each time you look you’ll find something different and probably good.