Simple: Whatever Faith Tradition, It’s All About Kindness

Tawang, India. Since 2000, we have been operating charities Raising, Supporting, and soon Educating Young Global Leaders. From every corner of the world and from every faith tradition. It doesn’t matter where someone comes from or how they worship – or don’t worship – as long as three elements are present: Tolerance, Kindness and Compassion.

986d4e56e0f8fc0d6a390add7c15f011My life changed in a garbage dump in Bali.
Photo: Stewardship Report.

New Year’s Day 2006 I had an epiphany. A watershed moment in my life. I was, in fact, born-again. For the second time. It happened in a garbage dump in Bali, Indonesia. In fact, as Bali is seen as paradise and a garbage dump in its middle would not look good for tourists, a very heavily guarded dump. With destitute children living in the middle of it.

I decided to visit the dump, which took a lot of maneuvering, and a group of socialites heard of my plan and decided to join me. We arrived in an SUV caravan and pulled up to a group of children scavenging for food. The trash was meters deep and covered with broken glass and the kids were either barefoot or had on badly beaten flip-flops.

O.I. Sri Lanka MonkWorking with a local Buddhist priest outside Galle, with
Orphans International Sri Lanka. Photo: Stewardship Report.

The women, sinking into the mud in their heels, called he children over. An older girl took control and received each present and determined for which child it was most appropriate. The children stood quietly, receiving each gift with thanks. The children were filled with kindness and compassion. The women, meanwhile, complained bitterly about the stench and mosquitos.

I decided in that moment to leave Wall Street at fifty and to cast my lot with the poor of the earth who in my eyes at that moment had more dignity than those who had accompanied me.

09e5884e3536a36f8cc7abd0a7c100fcSitting in the new bungalow of Orphans International Sumatera with
children who had survived the 2005 Tsunami. Photo: Stewardship Report.

This was my second Life Moment, the first being when I brought my son out of the orphanage with only a ratty t-shirt on and was asked to surrender the shirt as it belonged to the orphanage. I realized in that moment that $1, $50, $500 would make all the difference to that struggling home.

During my childhood the largest event was the Vietnam War. My parents and siblings actively protested against it. A small black-and-white TV on our dining room table brought Walter Cronkite into our home every night to update us on casualties. It feels somehow poetic that our foundation’s director and many of our leadership team are North Vietnamese.

2010-01-15-OrphansInternationalMovement_4.0_JSupported by the Episcopal Bishop of Haiti in Gonaïves who would
perish the next year in the earthquake. Photo: Stewardship Report.

As a child, my grandmother warned me that the Germans and Japanese were intrinsically evil and I went out of my way to study in Germany and Japan to see for myself if an entire people can be bad. When I studied in Colombia, even my liberal mother caution not to fall in love with a foreigner because such a relationship would be doomed for failure.

I chuckle as I think that every long-term relationship I have had has been with a ‘foreigner’ – Chinese from the Philippines, Indonesian, Chinese from Malaysia/Singapore, and now Thai. I smile because each relationship ended after about ten years – maybe my mother was on to something?

2010-01-15-OrphansInternationalMovement_4.0_IWith Buddhist children of Orphans International Sri Lanka
after the 2005 Tsunami. Photo: Stewardship Report.

I remember making a poster during my German high school exchange year, “Nein, Du mußt nicht ein Ausländer sein – Du kannst immer zu Hause bleiben” (No, you don’t have to be a foreigner – you can always stay at home).

Our Young Global Leaders in New York hail from Latin America (Colombia, D.R., P.R.), the Caribbean (Haiti, Jamaica, Guyana), Europe (Greece, Turkey), South Asia (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka), and Southeast Asia (Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam). They have little in common except the ability to communicate in English and a sense of kindness and compassion.

b94fc0f82270607b19cb3a325b188f6bWhen in Rome. In the field, the author frequently participates in Buddhist,
Catholic, Hindi, Muslim, and Protestant services. Photo: Stewardship Report.

Of course, different faith traditions have different takes on liberal values and human rights. In general, orthodoxies are less flexible in regard to social mores. In Aceh, Indonesia – an Islamic province that was fighting for independence from Indonesia so that it could practice Sharia law before the 2005 Tsunami – homosexuality is punishable by death.

My Wikipedia profile at the time that I headed relief efforts there identified my male partner. I went anyway, I believe the officials around me knew and they practiced “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Tsunami_SaintAlthough I appreciated the sentiment, I am anything but a saint.
However, I do my best to practice kindness and compassion.

Although our project there wound down after three years when the economy improved and our children could be reunited with aunts and uncles, the Rotary orphanage and school we supported remained open. Last year there were news reports that a young man had been convicted of “homosexuality” and was to be whipped in the public square.

When I discovered this young man was an orphan of this orphanage, I called the director to offer support. She tried to calm me, saying he realized he was wrong and believed the punishment was just. I told her I simply could not accept that. Where was the kindness and compassion?

0a1e507751e236a4b70fe73fb3681883Our kids in Orphans International Sumatra were all Muslim and
worshipped at the local mosque. Photo: Stewardship Report.

I myself am twelfth-generation Anglo-American Protestant (Episcopalian). I raised my son Mathew in church until he was twelve and I allowed him to choose going or sleeping in. Surprisingly, he chose the later. In our projects globally, we allow the adults to set the age of Independence – when they want to be baptized, confirmed, bar/bat mitzvahed, even circumcised.

Our leadership team from around the world have been nothing, Seventh Day Adventist, Native American, Hindu, Roman Catholic, Buddhist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Jewish, Shinto, even Vodou. Our only rule is No Converting. This is a rule I insist on. When one of our Global Advisors would not stop inviting our Young Global Leaders to join her Soka Gakkai chanting group, after multiple warnings, I terminated her Advisorship.

2010-05-30-Orphans_International_Partners_Haitian_School_JJust as most Japanese are both Buddhist and Shinto, Haitian students can be a
combination of Catholic or Protestant and Vodou. Photo: Stewardship Report.

Our global heroes that we offer to our youth as role models – Martin Luther King, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Bishop Tutu, Oscar Romero, Simon Perez – are all different but have tolerance, kindness and compassion in common.

One Liberal quandary that I do not have is worrying about not tolerating Intolerance. White Supremacy. Nazism. Anti-Semitism. Homophobia. Islamophobia. Misogyny and sexism. Racism. Classism. Anti-immigrant. Ableism.

FRWYW2 Kindness word cloud concept with love help related tags

In my youth I co-founded Fundamentalists Anonymous with my then-partner who had been raised by Jerry Falwell’s missionaries and then went to Yale Divinity School to see if there was anything redeemable in Christianity. I myself had relatives go off the deep end with Christianity – Campus Crusade for Christ, etc. There is a specific Fundamentalist Mindset, an orthodoxy, that sees the world in black-and-white, right-and-wrong, good-and-evil with no middle ground and no room for compromise. No gray whatsoever.

2012-01-15-Touching_The_Untouchables_AThe authored wrote ‘Touching the Untouchable in a Rural Indian
Village’ for The Huffington Post. 
Photo: Stewardship Report.

One cannot argue with what Eric Fromm called a True Believer. But what one can do is walk away. If someone evidences Intolerance, Unkindness and Dispassion in my real world or social media, I simply cut them off. De-friend them. Stop communications. When we allow people of ill will, their bad energy can overwhelm us. Just stay away.

People are born neutral, with the capacity to embrace goodness or evil. We must strive to encourage tolerance, kindness and compassion, to tip the scales for humanity. It is with these virtues with which we are Raising, Supporting and Education Young Global Leaders.

Series on/from Tibet in India, September 2019 in 20 Parts

  1. The Dalai Lama & Dr. Kazuko: A 47-Year Friendship
  2. Tibetan Children’s Village: Step One to Success
  3. India: Great Protector of the Tibetan People
  4. With Incredible Tibetan Orphans, Reflecting on How I Got Here
  5. Meet Japanese Grandmother of Tibetan Orphanage in India
  6. Lama Thupten Phuntsok: Tibetan Monk’s Life Outside Monastery 
  7. First Trip to Tibetan Orphanage High in Himalayas
  8. Dharamshala for Americans: His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Hometown
  9. Himalayas: From India/Pakistan to Bhutan & Nepal + Chinese Tibet
  10. Himalayas: Once Greater Tibet, Now Tragically Divided 
  11. Meet American Lobsang Sangay, President of Tibet
  12. Dr. Kazuko: Planning Nine Orphanages Globally Through Gaia
  13. Viewpoint: Whatever Faith Tradition, It’s All About Kindness
  14. Orphanage Burns in Indonesia; Matt Luce Pledges to Rebuild
  15. At Fifty, I Gave Away My Wealth; at Sixty, My Possessions
  16. Autumn Elegant Evening to Highlight Charity Efforts Around World
  17. New Look: Stewardship Report on Connecting Goodness at Tenth Year
  18. Luce Leadership Experience Looks to Israel after Greece, Indonesia Trips
  19. Charities at Twenty Confer Lifetime Achievement Award to Dr. Kazuko
  20. New Look: Orphans International Website Refreshed for 20th Anniversary

Series On Pilgrimage: Following Footsteps of Buddha Across India in 15 Parts

  1. On Pilgrimage: Following the Footsteps of Buddha Across N.E. India
  2. Under the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya Where the Prince Became The Buddha
  3. Photo Essay of Bodh Gaya, Where Buddha Became Enlightened
  4. Next Step of Indian Pilgrimage: Vultures’ Peak Where Buddha Preached
  5. Touching the Untouchable in a Rural Indian Village
  6. Rediscovering the World’s First Great University in Buddhist India
  7. Buddhism for Beginners: Insights from a Non-Buddhist
  8. Buddhism and the Universal Concept of Social Responsibility
  9. Help Me to Support Education & Orphan Care in Bihar, India
  10. Most-Photographed Man in the World Prepares to Retire
  11. Yoshimitsu Nagasaka Photo Exclusive: The Dalai Lama in Bodh Gaya
  12. Varanasi: Holy City of Buddhists – As Well as Hindus, Jainists, Jews
  13. On the Banks of the Ganges: Reflections of a Journey in Time
  14. My Pilgrimage Complete: Life Continues Like a Wheel
  15. Pilgrimage Postscript: Pneumonia and Possible T.B.

See Also

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About Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens

View all posts by Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce (www.lucefoundation.org) writes and speaks on Thought Leaders and Global Citizens. Bringing 26 years management experience within both investment banking and the non-profit sector, Jim has worked for Daiwa Bank, Merrill Lynch, a spin-off of Lazard Freres, and two not-for profit organizations and a foundation he founded. As Founder & CEO of Orphans International Worldwide (www.oiww.org), he is working with a strong network of committed professionals to build interfaith, interracial, Internet-connected orphanages in Haiti and Indonesia, and creating a new, family-care model for orphans in Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

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