Exceptional Leaders Who Changed My Life

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We but mirror the world. All the tendencies in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.
– Mohandas K. Gandhi

Two weeks ago I had an opportunity to meet and listen to the grandson of one of the people who has lived and made a huge difference in our world, M.K. Gandhi. Arun Gandhi was speaking in the town where I live. His message confirmed so much of what I believe: that we humans are one human family, personal peace and serenity come from how I choose to live and be responsible for my own life, the power of love for all people is essential for all people on this planet, how I can work with others, how greed and addiction to material stuff is diminishing the character and behavior of many of people, particularly our leaders on this planet. I was so thankful to Arun Gandhi that he visited our town, and I felt honored to be able to say to him face-to-face how much his grandpa was a hero of mine.

The words and writings of M. K. Gandhi, helped change the course of my life when I was in my thirties. I had been through a major life change and had bought and then read Gandhi’s autobiography. That book and and movie, Gandhi, showed me a very different way to see the world. I started working with a peace organization and felt at home. That organization, Beyond War, also spoke about how all humans are one. My daughter also participated in activities connected to Beyond War. This echoed Gandhi’s message of how ALL of us are one human family. This way of seeing the world went into my heart. This thinking probably also planted the seed in me to become an English-as-a-Second Language teacher. Again while I was teaching to people from around the world, I got that although we are different, we humans are all linked together in one human family. In my late forties, I bought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s writings and tapes of his speeches. King’s universal loving message again echoed what Gandhi had said during his lifetime. I discovered Dr. King long after he had died.

These two leaders were my role models and have helped me to become who I am today and have influenced what I think and feel about much of what I see in the world. I am deeply grateful to both M.K Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr for showing me a more loving way to be in the world. Unlike the fake heroes of movies, these were real men with their own human foibles. Their great thinking and way of being in the world outweighed whatever imperfections they may have had. That I came to know of them will be one of my life’s saving graces.

Therefore, meeting M.K. Gandhi’s grandson was like fulfilling a life dream. Arun Gandhi lived with his grandfather for more than one year when he was 12-years old. He is carrying his grandfather’s message out into the world. The photo I used in this blog is from the cover of his book, Legacy of Love.

At this time, Gandhi’s message of love, tolerance, oneness of humanity is needed in many countries, including the USA and even in India. Fear, division, and greed between people has been adopted in so many governments and businesses across the world, and what is needed is open-hearted and kind behavior. I am going to stand on the side of love and kindness. It was a huge gift that I got to be reminded of this message by Arun Gandhi.

This is a youtube video of Arun Gandhi speaking in Cleveland, OH from 2015. The introduction lasts for about two minutes.

I do not ever expect to become Mohandas K Gandhi or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I can strive to live the principles that they showed in action to the world, and be the best me I can be.

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Working Together II

During my life when I have worked with a group, together we were able to accomplish some amazing things. This was particularly true when most of the people involved had the same commitment. The first time I experienced this, was with a volunteer organization called Beyond War in the 1980s. It wasn’t as if all of us agreed all of the time. In fact this organization taught me during a workshop I took, that conflict was a normal human behavior, so this was a peace organization which fully acknowledged people’s differences and honored them. I had never experienced that before neither in my family nor my marriage, so this was a life lesson I embraced whole-heartedly. Beyond War also taught me that all of us humans are one. 23 years of work as an English-as-a Second Language teacher solidified that belief about us humans.

Before the my years of working with Beyond War, which became Foundation for a Global Community, I was used to all conflict being solved with domination of the older or stronger individual and fights about who was right and who was wrong. There was no “win-win” for all people involved, except for the dominant person. There was little or no listening to each other and little learning or mutual respect. The “weaker” person was usually left feeling resentful towards the “stronger” person. Competition not cooperation was how we rolled and how I learned to communicate. When I became a single mother when my daughter was 4 years old, I still had this pattern of communicating.

Beyond War is still active in the northwest in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Their website is: beyondwarnw.org/

and also lives on online as:

Beyond War Legacy

The group Beyond War showed me another way. When my daughter was in high school, at one point I put on my mirror in my bathroom “Would you rather be RIGHT or be HAPPY” as a way to remind me that being “right” was a sell out. My daughter put the same saying on her mirror in her bathroom, but when friends came to visit, she removed it because they asked her about it. At least every day I was reminded that I had a choice of how I responded.

These days I search for stories that show people working together toward something positive. Just last week I hear two stories. One was about saving an animal, a toucan named Grecia from Costa Rica. So many people were part of the process of helping this toucan. Also laws may change in Costa Rica to protect all animals from killers who have been maiming animals because of this story about Grecia. You can see Grecia and his story on youtube.

In another story from July, after 100 years of not being able to fish for salmon in Burns, Oregon, many members of the Paiute tribe there, were finally able to fish for salmon on the Malheur River. The Paiute had had the cultural tradition of fishing for salmon on the Malheur River, prior to the dams. The Oregon fisheries manager, Erica Maltz, worked with tribal chairperson, Charlotte Rodriguez, to truck in and reintroduce 200 salmon beyond the dams that are on the Columbia and Snake Rivers, so that tribal members could fish for the salmon once again.
You can hear this story on Oregon Public Broadcasting radio:

http://www.opb.org/radio/programs/thinkoutloud/segment/ron-wyden-at-dnc-salmon-reintroduction/

For a final story which is very current, concerns and the historic flooding and horrific damage in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and all the clean up help the residents are receiving from people from New Orleans and around the world. Try to listen to the entire podcast. I hope it will warm your heart as it did mine!

http://www.npr.org/programs/all-things-considered/2016/08/26/491456466?showDate=2016-08-26

“Now we have black and white officials working together. Today, we have gone beyond just passing laws. Now we have to create a sense we are one community, one family. Really we are the American family.”
– John Lewis

All of these stories remind me that when we work with each other, we can make all of our lives better including our animal friends. Stories such as these fill me with hope about our common future.

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