What will we do with our time?

Nancy Brown Hedgpeth, JDPSN

Nancy Brown Hedgpeth, JDPSN

This teaching is offered by Nancy Brown (now Nancy Brown Hedgpeth), JDPSN to sangha members at our head temple in Providence, RI. This is taken from the Summer, 1995 edition of Primary Point, the Kwan Um School of Zen (our parent organization) magazine.

All of us have had many, many teachers: our parents, school teachers, our family and friends. Zen Master Seung Sahn and all of these wonderful teachers sitting here. One another. The clouds. The sky. How we live all of this teaching we receive is very important. One of my teachers while I was growing up was the minister of our Congregational church. He was a wonderful man-dedicated, gentle and with an artist's mind. He was quite well-read and always brought to his sermons stories he had been reading that inspired him.

One story this minister told was of a man who drove a trolley car. At the end of this man's work day, he would leave his trolley car at the end of one track, and he would wait 42 minutes for the next car to come, pick him up, turn around and take him on his way home. At first he simply sat at the end of the track and was restless for 42 minutes.

But day after day passed, and he began to notice his surroundings and noticed that it was a junkyard, with old broken-down trolley cars and car parts and litter and weeds. One day he not only noticed these, but acted. He started to pick up and stack litter; he'd bring a rake; he'd bring a plastic garbage bag and haul it away full: 42 minutes every day. Then an occasional Saturday. Then others began to notice the change and began to pitch in-time or money or tools or a truck load hauled away or plants. Slowly, slowly this place began to be a park. In his mind, it had already been a park.

So what will we do with our time? With our hands and with our money and with our energy? What kind of place can we make?

Edahn Small