Mohandas (or Mahatma) Gandhi.
The Peaceful Resistor.
The man who organized and took peaceful protests for people’s rights to a whole new level.
The man who directly influenced Martin Luther King, Jr.
Learning to Make a Difference
It’s no secret that I grew up around people from all over the world. Hearing their stories and witnessing their life experiences had a profound effect on me.
I yearn for a peaceful world and wholeheartedly desire freedom and peace for all.
As an empath and a highly sensitive person, I am deeply attuned to the plights of the people.
I can only take so much news (I do my best to stay informed and then I have to turn it off to shut out the relentless pleas for help from every sector of society: from child trafficking to poverty to lack of water to animal cruelty to climate change to civil rights…and the list is endless).
But I think every day about how I can make a difference – how I can tip the odds in favor of all those who are oppressed and who need a genuine hand…
How can I, just one person, begin to change the world?
I’m not 100% sure how, just yet.
I do know people – local people, even – who change the world by starting somewhere.
I just watched a video earlier today about a man, his husband and their family of six and their uphill battle to foster and adopt children from the system – and he had been a foster child himself.
He didn’t know what else to do but help to foster other kids and vowed to help them not have to live out of trash bags.
He started a campaign to give all those kids in his local foster care system their own canvas suitcases.
I’m already somewhere…I think.
For me, I know the first step is educating myself.
Hearing about these kinds of stories gives me hope and courage that if enough of us figure out where the need is – according to our talents and abilities – we can all change the world.
And it also ties back into helping people.
A couple weeks ago, I watched the movie Selma.
It was on my “to watch” list for a long time, but I had to wait until I was in a good state of mind to watch it.
I knew it would be an intense, serious and heartrending movie.
I wasn’t wrong.
It just affirmed everything I felt about the plight of my African American brethren and everything they have and still are going through.
I’ve always, always admired Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
When I read his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” years ago with all its references to major events in history and literary allusions, I was deeply impressed by his intelligence and articulate nature. Oh, and that writing – that gloriously eloquent writing!
I was also moved by his peaceful actions to change the world.
I’m a conflict-averse personality and I love the idea of changing the world with peace.
I also learned recently that MLK was influenced by Gandhi.
Gandhi is another person I deeply revere. His hunger strikes, salt marches and peaceful protests speak to me.
I have a book about him and watched the documentary that followed his life from the time he got thrown off the train in South Africa until he was assassinated in India.
He never shouted out his desire for freedom from the mountaintops.
He didn’t do it by condemning his brothers and sisters.
He didn’t incite and invoke change by posting articles online about it. (Not that Facebook existed then.)
He did it through the way he lived his life.
While I do not ever want to “wave my beliefs” in someone’s face (even Christianity talks about that in Matthew 6:6), I don’t hide behind them, either.
I strive to be more like my revered leaders and work at it each day.
I write about my opinions and beliefs here, though I’m not 100% sure I would want to write an op ed piece for a wide, general audience to read. (I’m still a little too sensitive for such attention.)
Honestly, though, I think that more of us don’t take more action for the same reasons I do: fear of getting out of the comfort zone.
But what is the root of this fear?
After doing much reading and pondering, I honestly think that most of us so value our lives, that we fear death.
One day, I will use meditation to completely supersede that fear and act exactly in congruence with how I think and feel.
I’m not there, yet.
I have my own personal hang-ups to overcome.
I also know that I’m still quite reluctant to think about laying my life down for my own ideals.
Would I die if it meant that illegal immigrants were given an opportunity to become legal citizens?
Would I die if it meant that the school to prison incarceration rate for African Americans would go to zero?
I’d like to think I would.
I would really like to think I would.
If someone gave me the opportunity to wipe out all injustices from the face of the earth in exchange for my life, I write here that I would.
I close my eyes and imagine that my heart is so big that love would conquer the world.
Since I know that choice is not before me in this moment, I can keep working on my meditation game.
Gandhi did this – that he had reached enlightenment.
He had a profound meditation and mantra practice.
Some say that he had a mantra that he would say to himself every day, many times per day, and that in his last breath, after he had been shot, he still managed to utter Ram, or “God” as part of his mantra: Jai Ram. Hail God.
To have such control, courage and love in the face of one’s own demise is profound.
And so, I was looking over some Gandhi quotes and thought that I would compile a list of my favorites: ones that have resonated with me – that have gently pushed me to improve my life, to strive to be better and to overcome.
There are echoes in these quotes of what is going on in the United States (because, any knowledgeable person will tell you, history can and will repeat itself).
But these are timeless reminders of who we’re meant to aspire to be. Of who we need to be.
Because then, we change the world.
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.
Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.
The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding.
Anger is the enemy of non-violence and pride is a monster that swallows it up.
Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.
If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.
Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good.
Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is.
I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and Non-violence are as old as the hills. All I have done is to try experiments in both on as vast a scale as I could.
Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.
It has always been a mystery to me how men can feel themselves honoured by the humiliation of their fellow beings.
A man is but the product of his thoughts what he thinks, he becomes.
Man lives freely only by his readiness to die, if need be, at the hands of his brother, never by killing him.
There is nothing that wastes the body like worry, and one who has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything whatsoever.
I do not want to foresee the future. I am concerned with taking care of the present. God has given me no control over the moment following.
A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave.
I claim that human mind or human society is not divided into watertight compartments called social, political and religious. All act and react upon one another.
It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.
Let everyone try and find that as a result of daily prayer he adds something new to his life, something with which nothing can be compared.
Prayer is not an old woman’s idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action.
Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth.
The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.
You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result.
Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.
Prayer is the key of the morning and the bolt of the evening.
I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.
I know, to banish anger altogether from one’s breast is a difficult task. It cannot be achieved through pure personal effort. It can be done only by God’s grace.
Hopefully you also found something that resonated.
I also now have an idea for my next “meditation experiment.”