Sternness & Love
Imai Sensei and Aoki Sensei do so much more than feed the homeless. They give them showers and wash their clothes. They help find jobs and inexpensive apartments. They schedule sessions with lawyers for legal advice – about their individual rights and how best to adhere to city laws.
Yomawari, Imai Sensei and Aoki Sensei’s group, have rules, but enforce them lovingly. They refuse any form of drunkenness. The other day one man arrived reeling from alcohol, stinking from not bathing, clothes torn, and socks so damaged that a web of filthy cracks and splinters peeked through the heels. This guest swayed in, shouting jokes, causing a huge uproar. Volunteers smiled and laughed politely at his antics, but Imai Sensei was not amused. He told the noisy, smelly man to leave immediately. Sternly, yes. But also lovingly.
“Here. Take this food. Take these clothes. Come back on Monday when you can get a bath and your clothes washed. But don’t ever come back drunk. Now good-bye.”
A ban, yes. But also fairness and an open door.
I gaze at an apartment near this park, and wish it were home.
Imai Sensei always says, “The homeless are human beings like you and me. The only difference is they have fallen on very bad luck. We must focus on their humanity and give opportunities for their very best to shine through.”