[Listen to Asha read this story]

After the earthquake in Assisi, Italy in 1998, tourism dropped off for awhile. Many small businesses went bankrupt. The Ananda community there is twenty miles outside of town on a rural road. A small restaurant, serving mostly coffee and sweets, opened on that road just after the earthquake happened. 

“When so many businesses are closing,” Swamiji said, “it took courage to go ahead and open anyway. I’d like to help the owner make a success of his business.” Whenever Swamiji drove to town he made a point of stopping at that restaurant for a coffee and something to eat, greeting the owner like an old friend. 

Swamiji had recorded many of his songs in Italian and he brought one of those CDs for the owner to hear. “Perhaps your customers would enjoy it if you played music like this,” Swamiji said.

Once when Swamiji went in, the owner had fresh strawberries and ice cream as the specialty of the day. Swamiji’s enthusiasm for the dish seemed to boost the owner’s spirits. Often Swamiji and his group were the only customers in the restaurant. 

The owner played Swamiji’s CD whenever he came in, but it is doubtful that he played it at any other time. “His mind is too restless to listen to my music,” Swamiji said later. 

A friend accompanied Swamiji to the restaurant once and afterwards remarked, “It is obvious that the owner likes you, but I think he doesn’t quite know what to make of you. He looks at you in such a puzzled way, as if he were trying to figure you out.”

Swamiji laughed and said, “Years ago, a young man at Ananda Village traveled with me on a lecture tour. He was a nice man, but complex, with many crosscurrents of ego. Every morning at breakfast he would stare at me in just the way you describe. Finally, after a week, he said in exasperation, ‘I just can’t figure you out!’ 

“I told him, ‘To figure someone out means to understand his motives. You can’t figure me out because the only motive I have is to serve God.’” 

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