My wife (at the time) made an observation once, after we had begun our practice. She noticed that growing up where we did, in the middle of blue-collar America, she had never seen a real, orange-robe wearing, shaved-head Buddhist monk. Until we started practicing. Then we saw them all the time. We ran into them in bookstores. We saw them driving around. We saw them walking down the street. Synchronicity.
I recently flew to cover a tech conference, and at the airport, in the boarding area, I saw a monk. It’s been a while. I haven’t gone to the temple in about a year, and seeing a monk drove that point home. I commented to my travel partner: “Look, a monk!” When we got on the plane, I looked down the row and found my seat. Guess who was sitting in the seat next to it? Yep, the monk.
A few minutes later, another man came down and pointed at the monk’s seat and said “that’s my seat” while looking at his ticket. The monk didn’t understand, and simply handed me his ticket. I looked at it, and noticed that he was supposed to be sitting elsewhere. I said to the man, “I’m sorry, he must have picked this seat at random”. The attendant immediately overheard and defused the situation by asking the man to exchange seats with the monk, would it be a problem, etc. He didn’t have a problem with it, and sat in the monk’s assigned seat. I handed the ticket back to the monk, noticed the Thai script on his bag, and put two and two together. I realized he was from my temple, and I gave him a traditional Thai greeting and referred to him as “achahn”. He broke into a huge grin and asked me if I spoke Lao. Unfortunately, I don’t.
We didn’t talk much due to the language barrier. I found out he was flying from Detroit to San Jose, CA. He had me order coffee for him and was glad I knew how Lao monks generally like their coffee. He handed me his ticket and asked me to help him get to his connecting flight when we got to Denver. When we landed in Denver, I helped him find a person who could escort him to his flight. I gave a wai, bowed, and thanked him. He handed me a miniature buddha statue charm and said “Thank you for help”. All in all, an experience to remind me that I need to get back to the temple, an exercise in synchronicity, and an auspicious beginning to what turned out to be a very successful business trip.