Peace officers, tobacco and a shroud

Shrouded homeless person, asleep on Joseph L Alioto Piazza, San Francisco City Hall, 38th Stand for Peace, August 4, 2012
Shrouded homeless person
asleep on Joseph L Alioto Piazza
San Francisco City Hall38th Stand for Peace, August 4, 2012
Copyright L Kathryn Grace, all rights reserved

38th Stand

A homeless man lies shrouded under a white sheet on this gloomy, chilly day. Not even his face is exposed. During my stand, I check back often to see if he moves. He does.

May he be warm, dry, and well fed. May he be healed of the afflictions that bring him to sleep alone in a public square.

It is the first Saturday of the month. The Falun Dafa group is out practicing their peace-making exercise, as they do each first Saturday. Their ranks much smaller this morning than any time past, they make only half a dozen rows, the columns short.

Today, for the first time in all these months, a police car is parked on the grounds.

The patrol car sits near the Falun Dafa group, facing them. Two officers lean against the car, also facing the group, chatting. How must it feel, to so many who escaped torturous prisons for practicing Falun Dafa in China, to have armed police pointedly watching?

May they feel comforted in the relative freedom they have escaped to here. May they continue to build peace in their lives. May their practice bring healing to their bodies and minds.

The police officers chat and laugh and stare at the gathering.

A man approaches from the other side. Asks me in barely understandable English to take his picture with the gilded building behind him. He is tall. I am short. It is difficult to get a good angle. I tell him I hope the pic is okay. He grins broadly and thanks me repeatedly.

May he be blessed and feel deeply loved wherever he goes.

An old man, accompanied by a young man barely out of his teens, stop and stare at our magnificent city hall. Turning, they watch the Falun Dafa group for a bit, their faces so alike we see exactly how the young man will appear when he is old. They sport nearly identical thick manes of hair, one white and steely grey, the other hinting of red in this light.

May their bond deepen for all the years they have left together. May they learn from one another and take joy in each other’s company.

Halfway through my stand, the officers return to their car. They drive slowly past me and into the street.

May their hearts be filled with the deep mission of their work as peace officers. May they return safely each day to their families.

A family of three stops near me. Mom. Dad. Son. Clearly related, the young man looks as much like his dad as like his mom. Mom and Dad both hold lit cigarettes, take frequent drags. Gotta catch the smokes while the tourist bus takes a break. A gust of wind carries acrid smoke just as I take a deep breath. My eyes sting. I cough.

May their paths be eased wherever they may go. May they be among the lucky few smokers who will never suffer the pain of emphysema or lung cancer.

Smoking is not a frequent tourist site in this plaza. Usually, when we do see smokers, they are the homeless. Sometimes a busload of Asian tourists will include very young people with cigarettes in their hands, held prominently, proudly, as they pose for pictures, one after the other, their slow, likely unwitting suicide a legacy of our tobacco companies and their heavy marketing to young people around the world. Be cool! Smoke.

I feel anger at the senseless suffering. Greed, and greed alone accounts for these shameless companies marketing to ever younger children around the world. Get ’em young, keep ’em for life.


Breathing in, I am peace.

Breathing out, I make peace.

May the executives of the tobacco companies wake up to the destruction and suffering their policies and products cause. May they find kinder, gentler ways to make their billions.

May we all find the strength and the will to end suffering however we find it, be it a homeless man taking warmth on damp grass under a thin sheet, repressive governments silencing their own people, or greedy executives spouting “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” to justify their marketing of addictive, killing drugs to children.

Breathing in, I am peace.

Breathing out, I make peace.

If you are reading this, you are a peacemaker. Share with me the ways you are making peace this day. Large or small steps. They make no difference to me. What matters is the sharing.



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