Some 125 people joined the fifth annual Michigan Walk to Feed the Hungry on Sunday, September 27, held in the Kensington Park in Milford. Participants came from more than a dozen Buddhist groups from across Michigan. These ranged from Sri Lankan and Thai monasteries to a Korean Zen temple, the Chinese Chan and Pure Land traditions, members of several Vietnamese temples and students of Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh. They also included Westerners from various insight meditation groups in Ann Arbor, Lansing, and the metropolitan Detroit area. And there were lots of kids! Bringing families out was one of the goals of Ven. Haju Sunim of the Ann Arbor Zen Temple, so our youngest “walker” was just learning how to stand up from a crawl!
We were blessed to have six monastics join the Walk this year: four venerable monks from the Great Lakes Buddhist Vihara and the Midwest Buddhist Meditation Center, Ven. Haju Sunim from the Zen Temple of Ann Arbor, and the guest of honor, the founder of BGR, Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi.
Venerable Bodhi led the three-mile walk through beautiful Kensington Park, which combines forests, a large lake, and some magnificent wildlife. Our walk ended with a meal devotedly prepared by members of several temples. And since Sept. 27 was also the day of the Chinese Moon Festival (and a supermoon!), members of the Lansing Buddhist Association had lovingly prepared some amazing moon cakes, which were sold as part of the fundraiser and raised over $300 for Buddhist Global Relief. Lunch ended with a poem by Zen storyteller Jill Halpern.
The event continued with an inspiring update on BGR projects by Ven. Bodhi, followed by a most welcome addition to the program, a visit and presentation by Ashley Atkinson, co-director of Keep Growing Detroit, one of BGR’s partners. Ashley described KGD’s efforts to bring food sovereignty to residents of Detroit by engaging people in urban agriculture and turning the many vacant lots in Detroit into beautiful vegetable gardens. It was wonderful to see the direct effects our support of BGR projects is having right in our own backyard, in one of the most food-insecure cities in the US.
The Walk was followed by two Dhamma lectures offered by Ven. Bodhi. The first took place that same evening, at the Ann Arbor Zen Temple, and the second, on Sept. 29, at the Lansing Buddhist Association. In this way Bhante was able to reach many more Michiganders with his message of wisdom and compassion during his brief stay here in Michigan. We are so grateful for the blessings of his visit, for his great scholarship that has been the foundation for our practice, and for his ability to set such an inspiring example of taking our practice out into the world to help those less fortunate.
We were able to raise over $10,000 for BGR projects during the walk and other events, thanks to the great generosity of the people of Michigan and of so many Buddhist groups and temples who support the Michigan Walk each year. Thank you to all who came out and supported this wonderful event, and thank you to Bhikkhu Bodhi for joining us again this year!
Maureen Bodenbach is a coordinator of the Michigan Walk to Feed the Hungry.