Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tootsie Roll Philosophy

I love parades. It wouldn't be the holidays without the annual Homewood Christmas Parade. The big event happened on Thursday night—a shift from the Saturday morning tradition, which we've enjoyed for the past seven years. By street light, the parade took on a more festive feel, the homemade floats looked grander, and somehow running around in the chilly night air seemed more befitting a holiday festival than the Christmas parades past when I was roused from warm covers to pile on layers before venturing out too early on a Saturday morning.
   This year was also different because instead of standing on the sidewalk grabbing up candy and prizes, Jack rode on a float as a member of a local Cub Scout troop. For the first time, he threw bright, shiny plastic beads to hungry onlookers below.
   I strode alongside his float for a while, scooping up stray beads and waving to Jack when I caught his eye. Did I feel conspicuous scrambling with the children for choice Nestle Crunch bars and Airheads? Just a little. But I was under strict orders from Jack to collect candy for him while he rode like a King on his float. (Okay, I enjoyed the scramble, and I promise I did not take candy from babies.) The bounty of Homewood, an idyllic in-town neighborhood if ever there was one, was made evident by the fact that after the floats floated by and the horde of kids gathered their share, there was still plenty of candy strewn on the ground. There was so much candy that children picked through it looking for "the good stuff" and left jaw breakers and peppermints for the street cleaners. We live a fortunate life.
   After the initial frenzy died down and I had secured enough sugar to satisfy the King, I strode the parade route enjoying the crowd.  It was then I spied a personal favorite treat: a perfectly wrapped, unmolested, extra large Tootsie Roll. It was lying just at the feet of a man who was taking pictures of his children. I approached the photographer and scooped the prize from his feet. Then I proffered the the candy to him on my outstretched palm, lest he think I was a candy poacher of the worst order. "Want a Tootsie Roll?" I asked. He smiled and shook his head. "All yours," he said. "Sometimes what you're looking for is right at your feet."
   I thanked him profusely as I pocketed the Tootsie Roll and his words. I love random wisdom from strangers just as much as I love parades.

Somedays I worry that in my do-over life I am grabbing for bright and shiny things that may be egotist and self-serving—delicious and sweet, but, ultimately, not really mine to own. In Buddhist practice this habit is called grasping. Humans are often bound up in futile grasping for superficial goods, success and relationships, which have no real intrinsic value in our lives, simply because we desire them. Buddhism teaches that when you stop grasping, give up attachment to ego and become aware your intentions, you learn to recognize the bona fide "good stuff." Then, and only then, there'll be no need to grasp, because the true gifts in life will be found right at your feet.

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