Thanking the University Book Store

Posted: April 28, 2015 in Personal Stories

Since choosing to become homeless I spend a lot of my time at the University Book Store on University Avenue in the University District of Seattle. When I say a lot of my time, I mean most of my time.

I sit on the porch during the day with my little sign inviting people to come and speak with me about the nature of enlightenment. I’ll go in and do reading and research on a broad range of topics. I’ll purchase something from the café if I’m in need of a snack and haven’t been shopping for a few days. I teach a late night meditation class out front. And of course, I sleep here on the porch at night.

So far the folks here have been tolerant of me – especially as they watch me closely and get to know me a bit. If nothing else they see that I do not smoke, drink, do drugs, panhandle, or bother people. I simply sit quietly, often meditating, or reading, or writing – and I talk to the people that come and talk to me. I also do my best to help other homeless people honor the store and its policies.

My only real concern is that they recently put out a new Code of Conduct sign on the porch, which includes things like not flying signs, not storing your gear, and not loitering for more than 30 minutes at a time. No sleeping is also listed on the sign, but I’m pretty sure no one cares that a group of us sleeps here at night when everything is closed down – so long as we are gone before they open.

Of course I understand the need for this code of conduct. Every day that I sit here I watch as members of the local homeless community occupy spaces meant for customers; smoking constantly, doing drugs, listening to loud music, harassing people, making messes, and more. In fact, I applaud store management for keeping the porch open to non-customers, with just a few basic requests.

The challenge for me is a bit unique though. I chose the book store for a number of very good reasons. I’ve loved book stores my entire life. I love books. Before I became homeless I would come here, read, buy books, and enjoy the space. It makes sense that a book store should be my home – books are our friends after all. Why not live amongst friends.

Not only that, but it’s clear that I’m supposed to be on the ave, quietly offering instruction and being the example of what I want to see in the world; a peaceful world that moves all things in the direction of love and kindness. But I cannot sit on the ave during the day or I violate the local city ordinance. The book store has its own porch that is outside of this rule. And they have chairs.

Chairs make it so much easier to converse with others. For my own part I could care less about them. I’m perfectly happy sitting cross-legged on the cement. However it makes visitors more comfortable while we chat – makes meditation instruction a bit easier – and it offers me an opportunity to use the chairs as a way to explain the nature of duality.

The location of the book store is perfect because it grabs a lot of foot traffic from the university, the local community, and the local homeless population; all of whom can benefit from simple meditation instruction to the more advanced search for personal enlightenment. Again, all I do is hang my sign and invite people into discussion – I don’t bother people – all I do is whistle and smile.

And so it was challenging for me to look at the new code of conduct and say to myself – “but my intentions are pure”. I tried to find a new location to sit – and I do have other places I can go. However none is as good as this location – and so I feel that I must ask for permission to continue using the space here as I have been – unless of course it becomes problematic in some way.

I wrote them a couple of detailed messages, asking for a bit of leniency, hoping for an exception of sorts. I’ve even spoken with a couple of staff members in depth about what it is that I am really doing here. So far, so good. And my intention now is basically to continue staying here and doing what I do until I’m specifically asked to stop. I don’t like testing boundaries in such a way, but I have faith.

And so, in an effort to honor the store and act in a manner consistent with the word I’ve given, I’m doing all that I can to be of service here; to the community and to the book store. As a part of this effort, I’m going to be pulling together some suggested reading materials on this site and including links to order them from the store here. Just as a way of saying thank you for the kindnesses being extended to me.

With any luck, God will see to it that I am able to remain here, where I’m easy to find, where there are resources at hand, and where the people can come to engage in their own search for answers. If not, so be it – the journey will simply continue as it must… Either way, I want to thank the people here that I’ve had the pleasure of encountering so far. We are all moments of synchronicity for one another 😉

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