A Belgian, an Indian and a Tunisian were seated on an International flight. Wait! These are not the first words of a joke (“A priest, a minister and a rabbi were golfing…”.) No, these were real people, businessmen who were my companions for a few hours as we travelled from the U.S.to Europe. It’s surprising what people whom you will never see again will tell you.
The East Indian, from the sub-continent which is changing how the world thinks, was on his way back from seminars which he gave in Boston concerning esoteric (to me) computer programing. I had been writing in my ever-present pocket note book which acts as info-storer for my lists of tasks, descriptions of what I am thinking, and a kind of diary.
“Are you writing?” the thirty-five year old asked with the lilting accent of East Indian English.
“I can’t write my signature the same way twice. I never write,” he said. He asked me at least three more times during the long flight about my writing.
“Are you writing again?” he said. I began to feel guilty somehow. Perhaps, my act of writing was suspect. It began to dawn on me after he told me his hand cramps if he tries to write for more than two minutes that it was hard for him to believe that there were still people like me who used such a primitive way of storing information.
But what really piqued my interest was when he began talking about his values, his core system of belief. First, in value is his mother, then his father, then his teacher and finally “the God.”
He explained that everything comes from the mother. She brings you to life and you owe her your life. She requires great devotion. The father sacrifices for you so that you have food, clothing, home and a good name in the community.You must bring him honor. The teacher gives you for your head, intelligence and learning without which you cannot survive in this world. The teacher must be given great respect.
The God? You must be responsible to someone for what you do with your life.
If your life does not please the God, you will be punished. However, just the knowledge that the God’s justice is sure and swift will keep you from making a mess of your life.
As my Canadian friend would say: Something to think about, eh?
Truth comes in all kinds of packaging. We can learn from this man’s culture. Reverence for mothers, fathers and teachers is not exactly a current American virtue and we are poorer for it. In fact, the virtue of reverence is about as rare today as an heirloom pocket watch.
So this East Indian who reveres his parents and teachers and who can’t write
reminds me that my life has been nurtured by my parents and elders. It’s my responsibilty to make integrity and thanksgiving a life-long commitment.
I think “the God” will be pleased with me if I live a thankful life. After all, it is He Who gives me life just as a spring waters a garden. In my value system, God is my mother, my father, my teacher –and my brother. He has spoken to me through all those who have stopped to share their lives with me, including this East Indian.
I’ll tell you about the Tunisian and thr Belgian later.