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The old man continued to beam at the laborer. There was not a trace of fear or resentment about him. "What'cha been drinking?" he asked lightly, his eyes sparkling with interest.


"I been drinking sake," the laborer bellowed back. "And it's none of your goddam business!" Flecks of spittle spattered the old man.


"Oh, that's wonderful," the old man said with delight, "absolutely wonderful! You see, I love sake too. Every night, me and my wife – she's 76, you know – we warm up a little bottle of sake and take it out into the garden, and we sit on the old wooden bench that my grandfather's first student made for him. We watch the sun go down, and we look to see how our persimmon tree is doing."


"My grandfather planted that tree, you know, and we worry about whether it will recover from those ice storms we had last winter. Persimmons do not do well after ice storms, although I must say that ours has done rather bet- ter than I expected, especially when you consider the poor quality of the soil. Still, it's most gratifying to watch when we take our sake and go out to enjoy the evening – even when it rains!"


He looked up at the laborer, eyes twinkling, happy to share his delightful in- formation.


As the bewildered drunk struggled to follow the intricacies of the old man's conversation, his face began to soften. His shaky fists slowly unclenched. "Yeah," he said slowly, "I love persimmons, too…" His wavering voice trailed off.


"Yes," said the old man, smiling and leaning slightly forward, "and I'm sure you have a wonderful wife."


"No," replied the laborer to this so strangely friendly man in a softer, sullen voice. "My wife... she died last year."


The suddenly changed drunk hung his head in heavy sorrow. Then, gently swaying with the motion of the train, this big, burly man, who was so threat- ening just a moment ago began to sob. "I don't got no wife. I don't got no home any more. I lost my job. I don't got no money, I don't got nowhere to


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go. I'm so ashamed of myself." Big tears rolled down his cheeks. A spasm of pure despair rippled through his body.


Above the baggage rack, a brightly colored ad trumpeted the virtues of sub- urban luxury living.


Now it was my turn. Standing there in my well-scrubbed youthful pride, with my make-this-world-safe-for-democracy righteousness, I suddenly felt dirtier and more ashamed than he was.


Just then, the train arrived at my stop. The platform was packed with bus- tling humanity. The busy crowd surged into the car as soon the doors opened. Maneuvering my way toward the door, I heard the old man speak sympathetically.


"My, my," he said with heartfelt care, yet undiminished delight. "That is a very difficult predicament, indeed. Sit down here and tell me about it."


I turned my head for one last look before leaving the now-crowded train. The laborer was sprawled like a sack on the seat, his head in the old man's lap. The old man was looking down at him with smiling compassion, his hand stroking the filthy, matted head of this confused soul.


As the train pulled away, I sat down on a bench dazed with all that had just happened. What I had wanted to do with muscle and meanness had been deftly accomplished with but a few kind words.


What I had just witnessed was true Aikido in combat. The essence of it was love, as the founder had always said. I determined then and there to prac- tice this beautiful art with an entirely different spirit. I yearned to be able to move from the heart like this old man in using the deep principles of aikido. Yet it would be a long time before I could fully embody what I had seen on that unforgettable ride.


The above story was taken from the “Want To Know” website


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