“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”
I arrived at the airport early this morning and found myself alongside a teenage girl, with her father standing on the other side of the line for security.
“Can I please just walk her to the gate? This is her first time flying.” He was clearly worried about his daughter and as the security personnel said “absolutely not,” I was inspired to step in. I reassured the father with a smile, telling him I’d watch out for his daughter.
“I promise! I’ll make sure she’s ok.” I had no idea what I meant when I said that, but I knew that I had to help. In fact, I was led to help by a girl I met a few weeks ago named Jesse, a natural born leader in loving-kindness.
Turns out, the young girl now under my watch was named was Courage Joy.
She told me that her wanted to name her Patience, but as she was being wheeled to the labor room, Courage’s mother saw a nurse with a name tag that said “Patience.” Right that minute, her mom decided she couldn’t name her daughter something so commonplace. ( I love this woman and I don’t even know her!)
Courage told me when she was younger, she hated her name, but now that she’s an older teenager, she loves it.
“I don’t care what anyone thinks, honestly. I like it.”
We talked for a pretty long time, because it turned out we were going to the same place today, except Courage was on a different flight. We walked all the way to the furthest gate(mine) and then checked her ticket and realized her gate was on the opposite end of the airport.
I had promised her father. There was no way I was letting him down. I thought about Jesse’s example, and decided to get my exercise for the day. I walked with Courage to her gate, where I told the woman behind the counter that this was her first flight, and her name was Courage.
As I left to walk back to my gate, I reminded her to call her dad and let him know she was at the gate, and to call him again when she got to her final destination. I gave her my phone number and email. I am going to a family wedding. I told Courage that I have about a zillion relatives ready with cars, money and great big hearts if she needed any help.
I have a feeling she’s going to be a world traveler. This is the first time she’s seeing the ocean.
Like I said, I was inspired to help Courage by Jesse, a natural born, quiet leader. She’s very beautiful and on Monday, at the Blue Lotus Temple in Woodstock, Jesse proved to all of us that her insides are as crystal gorgeous as her outsides.
It started with a coughing fit, during silent meditation. Bikkhuni Vimala, a rare American Buddhist nun, was guiding us in the metta sutta ( the loving kindness meditation).
She was instructing us to wish ourselves, our families, our close friends, and eventually all beings in this universe, human and non-human, happy, well and peaceful.
Jesse’s coughing didn’t bother me. I’ve been practicing awhile now and I’ve learned to view every distraction as an opportunity. Either I practice mindfulness, noticing my thoughts, bringing my attention back to my breath, one moment at a time, or, I practice loving kindness.
As I meditated, I wished the cougher ( I didn’t know who it was of course) happy,well and peaceful.
But Jesse did so much more than wish anyone loving- kindness. She became loving-kindness.
Jesse didn’t want to bother everyone with her coughing, so she left the sanctuary, walking outside to sit in her car, drink some water and manage her coughing fit. She planned on returning to her warm seat in the sanctuary when she was done. She was irritated. All day there had been mishaps and delays in her way. On the way to the temple, she was stopped in a bothersome traffic delay, only to realize it was a family of deer crossing to the road, adding a nice touch of guilt to her frustration.
Now, she thought, her coughing fit was preventing her from practicing loving-kindness!
The moment she stopped coughing, a man wiped out on his bike right in front of her car. Jesse didn’t hesitate.
She jumped out of her car and helped him up.
“Are you ok?”
“Ya, ya sure,thanks.”
Jesse, a courageous woman, leaned in further to help. She told him that she thought it was a lucky break that she had her parent’s van. They could throw the bike in the back and she could drive him home.
“Well, I was going to get groceries.”
Again, Jesse reached down, and lifted up a fellow soul with kindness.
“Ok, I’ll take you to the store, and then I’ll take you home.”
Jesse insisted on paying for the groceries. She drove the bike rider home, grateful for her coughing fit, the traffic delay, and all the other circumstances that led her to this exact moment.
When she returned to the temple, our 1 hour service was just ending. Jesse stood up during announcements and told her story.
“ I sat in my car, trying to stop coughing, and a man fell on his bike, right in front of me. I got out to help him and then I gave him a ride to the grocery store, where he bought some groceries before I took him and his bike home. He insisted on giving me 20 dollars, and now, I am donating that to the temple.”
Thank you, Jesse, for being a bodhisattva in action. Thank you for leading me in kindness and generous action. Most importantly, thank you for helping me be on the alert for even the most unlikely chances to practice loving-kindness.
I got to meet real, live Courage Joy, and Courage gets to see the ocean for the first time, in large part because Jesse showed me that kindness is the only way.
I’m learning. True leadership is not loud or boastful. It is quiet, a modest example of love in action. In her quiet leadership, Jesse inspired me to PRACTICE.
Thank you and Courage Joy, the world is your oyster. Go go go!
“Meditation is training for the practice of loving kindness. It is NOT the practice of loving-kindness. Always, always choose to help someone, even if it means you never get to meditate again.”
– Bhante Sujatha