This story I am about to share with you is a moving example of the famous quote from Mahatma Gandhi "You must be the change you want to see in the world". It comes to me from my friend Meg whom I met through the Global Women's Leadership Network. She is also a Women Leaders for the World graduate (in the class before mine) and her project is a microlending program called Lending Promise which she started in Nepal.
Last week I got an email from Meg recounting her recent experience at a breakfast event held in honor of the Dalai Lama's visit to San Francisco. She has given me permission to share this story with you which I give to you here in her words ...
"Thanks to Dean McCully, volunteer and fundraiser extraordinaire, I obtained two tickets to a breakfast this past Sunday in San Francisco to honor the Dalai Lama. Given that my husband, Art, has had private audiences with His Holiness in the past, he released his ticket to our daughter, age eight. We placed Art on a waiting list and amazingly, he got the last seat left for this event attended by about 400 people (quite different from one we attended eight years ago, at which the Dalai Lama spoke to an audience of 19,000 at the Shoreline Arena).
There was an odd dichotomy between the elegance of the venue -- the Ritz Carlton -- and the tight security measures, including metal detectors, bag searches, and even a bomb squad complete with police dogs. And cameras weren't allowed.
The Dalai Lama, Cisco executive Mike Quinn, a woman with a foundation that provides housing for Tibetan refugees in California, and a teenager named Sejil who started "Girls Helping Girls," a peer support nonprofit for girls, participated on a panel about giving. Perhaps Sejil's question was the most insightful: "Is there such a thing as true altruism, or are we all giving to get something in return?" His Holiness replied that it does exist and he emphasized the need for giving with nothing expected in return. Not only is this our responsibility, he said, but we will all find true happiness as a result. He got a few chuckles when he said that if everyone would help those who are less fortunate, we would all be rich. So, basically, the idea is to give without expecting anything and that in itself will generate a reward.
My daughter, Victoria, who was the only young child there other than an infant, stood out due to her age and attire, a traditional Tibetan dress (above) from Nepal. During the breakfast, I gave her pieces of paper and when those were gone, business cards, to use for drawing pictures when she became fidgety. Mistakenly believing we would see the Dalai Lama privately after the breakfast, Victoria wrote a note to give him: "You have peace in your soul. Love, Victoria. child." When she showed it to me, I explained that we wouldn't be meeting him. Despite the security detail and people filling the aisles to watch him leave, Victoria ran fast enough to reach a startled Dalai Lama. She handed him her note and received his smile and thank you in return (thus demonstrating what His Holiness had said).
Victoria's note was on the back of my Lending Promise business card. I can only hope that no one thought this was a publicity stunt. :)
I would like to thank Meg for allowing me to share this with you. Not only is she taking action toward being the change she wishes to see in the world, but she is instilling those values in her daughter. And in honor of Victoria's altruistic gesture, I've just donated to Lending Promise. I invite you to do the same if you feel so moved.