Practicing Generosity With Awakin Teens
Posted by Tim Huang on Dec 27, 2019
Last Saturday, volunteers, parents and teens gathered at the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery (BBM) for a day of spreading kindness and practicing generosity in community. Brother Jin Wei, Jane, Vishesh, and I walked the streets of downtown Berkeley with ten Awakin Teens, young love warriors carrying big smiles on their faces and positive signs like “Free Hugs” and “You Are Loved!” in their hands. With each person or group we met, we shared hand-written holiday cards, home-baked vegan cookies made by Sandy, improvised songs, engaging conversation, and lots of hugs.
Along the way, we connected with folks from all streams of life – people experiencing homelessness, street musicians, students, teachers, families with kids, people working and shopping at the Farmer’s Market, BBM friends who know Brother Jin Wei, BART station employees, as well as officers and inmates at the Berkeley police jail facility. We were also greeted by all sorts of different reactions and responses, many of them overflowing with gratitude. Beyond all of it, we enjoyed ourselves and just practiced offering from the heart. Once we gifted all the goodies, with our empty bags and hands, we picked up trash on our way back to the monastery.
While we were on the streets, the parents, led by Helen, Pragalbha, and Sandy, continued to deepen their connectedness while diligently preparing a delicious vegan holiday feast of Vietnamese noodle soup, tofu dishes, vegetable curries, and much more. For lunch, we were joined by many welcoming BBM community members, with whom we practiced mindful eating together. After the nourishing meal, we broke out into a parents’ circle and teens’ circle to enjoy more food for the spirit, bread for our journeys.
In our teens’ circle, Brother Jin Wei guided us through a short meditation grounding us in the present moment. We then explored in small groups the question “what is the most precious gift you have received and given?” I was moved by the collective wisdom of the group, especially as the teens tied in their lessons from the day and deeper reflections on generosity. Some of the teen insights included letting go of judgment when others did not respond as we expected, developing more skillfulness in giving by tuning in to meet the other person’s energy or deeper needs, and appreciating the joyfulness that can come from interacting with strangers and making new friends.
We closed the day with a beautiful, intergenerational parent-teen circle. As we went around sharing gratitude one-by-one, I felt a palpable sense of warmth and goodness that had accumulated from a day of practicing generosity together. Each person then wrote a prayer, a name, or an offering on origami paper as we sang the dedication of merit with our hearts full of compassion. I am humbled by this group of kindred spirits and reminded again that service is not the “impact” that we make, but how we are impacted each day. May we all continue to cultivate the field of our inner transformation and grow this luminous love!