On my commute to and from work, when I’m in the shower, or really just at any point when I have a small period of free time, I listen to podcasts.
I’m new to the podcast scene, I know. Many of you probably listened to my current playlist years ago. In fact, one of the series I’m currently addicted to started in 2014. It’s called Criminal, and features true stories of people from across the world who have experienced unusual life moments. It’s a great podcast, but I’m not here to discuss my love for true crime series (that post will come later).
The reason I mention the podcast at all is because of a lesson I learned from one of the episodes. It’s a lesson I value, and one I hope will resonate with you as well.
There was a couple who lived in a rough part of town.
They experienced crime and had daily run-ins with drug users (like one who got high and stood on their deck while they slept). When the area across the street started collecting trash, the homeowner grew upset. This crossed the line. The area had essentially turned into a dumpster, with passersby adding their own trash to the eyesore. Frustrated with the fact that their view was now a literal pile of trash, the couple set out to fix the problem.
They bought a Buddha statue from the local hardware store. He’s a neutral party, they justified. So, they placed Buddha in the area where trash typically collected, and they waited. Initially, the plan worked. The trash stopped collecting, and the area remained clean. But then, another thing started happening. One day, Buddha received a fresh coat of white paint. Then, fruit was placed in his hands. Eventually, he had an entire shelter built around him as if it were his home. Turns out, the local Vietnamese community had flocked to the statue and began meeting there for religious ceremonies and quiet time. It became a haven.
Not only did that Buddha statue keep the trash out of the area, it also became a place of refuge and hope.
And as a bonus, the crime in the neighborhood dropped dramatically — all on account of this one statue.
The story is quirky, and for that reason alone, I was drawn to it. It sounded like the plot of an indie film or a really good novel. But the thing is, I soon realized it is actually worth so much more than that.
Because it made me think: what’s my Buddha?
What areas of my life can I identify as places that collect trash? What can I use to, like the Buddha statue, serve as a pillar of peace and revival?
I encourage you to spend some time thinking about this, too. Are there areas in your life that have recently become dumpsters?
In this current cultural climate, a great example is politics. Everybody feels a certain way about the state of the country, and many aren’t afraid to voice it. If you’re feeling trapped under these issues, start on the lowest layer of the trash can.
Chances are, your social media feed is filled with so many personal rants or arguments between people who used to be best friends that you’re just scrolling through garbage every day. Find your Buddha. Maybe it’s a piece of scripture. Perhaps it’s a picture of a puppy sitting under an umbrella. Or, a really great pun. Whatever it is that represents peace, hope, and happiness to you in your life, post that on your social media accounts. See if you clear some of the garbage and bring people together — even if just for an hour.
And if that political turmoil has spilled into your workplace to the point where even the water cooler feels like a battleground, find your Buddha. Clear the garbage and become a beacon of positivity. Even just a smile can change the mood of a room in an instant.
The garbage in your life may be even deeper under the surface. If someone you love is suffering from an addiction, for example, you may feel buried under years’ worth of trash. You can help clear it. Find that pillar of strength and cement it into the ground — right in the middle of all that rubble. Your Buddha could be the phone number to a hotline that helps people who are suffering. Or, it could be an alternative to the life they’ve become trapped in. Sometimes, all it takes is a promise that you’ll be there no matter what.
Remember: it doesn’t matter what may be the garbage areas in your life. What matters is your willingness to find your figurative Buddha, share it with the world, and spark change.
We’ve all heard the words from another legendary peace promoter, Gandhi: Be the change you wish to see in the world.
If there’s a change you want to make, I challenge you to think outside the box about how you can make that a reality. You may not think buying a Buddha statue from the hardware store down the street will decrease the crime in your neighborhood. But, what may have happened if that couple hadn’t done just that?
The trash isn’t going to take itself out. But, you can help clear it. Even if it’s just one aluminum can at a time.