By Linda Moore - Director, Centre for Leadership and Human Values
Published: March 2006
Related Topics: Leadership, Youth
In most spiritual communities there appears to be importance placed on sacrifice and denial. And yet I often wonder if any of us truly understand why these two disciplines hold such high value. Is it the outward expression of forgoing personal pleasure? Is it the conscious curbing of desires? Is it the heightened awareness of our humanness and interest in self gratification? If something is done out of duty or because it is "tradition" in what way does that action either bring us closer to ourselves or to making a meaningful contribution in the world, especially if it doesn't resonate within us? I had no answers to my questions until a young girl of six brought me to a new and deeper understanding.
Meghan Quinn is six years old. She is pretty and smart and athletic. She is healthy adventuresome and willful. She is artistic, musical and an extremely skilled competitive Irish dancer. She is fun and at times likes to be silly. She is my friend.
Recently I found out that Meghan is in the midst of an exceptional experience that involves a unique perspective of both denial and sacrifice, I believed expressed in the best possible way.
Meghan is on her way to India with her parents and some other fellow travelers as we explore leadership from a global perspective. Knowing she was going to India, Meghan on her own took time out to investigate and compare the Indian culture from a child's perspective and compared that with her experience of being a child in Canada. When she gets to India she plans to attend a school there for a few days and share stories with the new friends she will make. Her faithful assumptions of a collective experience, shines through her. A truly grand adventure for a six year old!
In preparing for the trip she was told explicitly that she would only be able to take carry-on luggage and that no bags were going to be checked. Last week she went to her father and said that there was a bit of a dilemma. She said that it was now going to be impossible not to have a least one large bag to check. She then proceeded to explain the situation to her dad. She had been giving a great deal of thought to her Indian trip. When she was two she met my friend Debashis Chatterjee, world- renowned thought leader and an amazing human being. They had an instant connection and their special relationship has only grown stronger over the years. Recently Debashis and another friend of ours, Anoop, have started a school for orphaned girls with their own resources and hope to support thirty young girls through their lives until they have completed all their formal education and have found a successful and sustainable place in their society. Meghan knows of their dream and had plans to visit their school while in India. In the core of her soul she knew the generosity that lay within Debashis and Anoop. She knew of their sacrifice and denial gladly made to create and support the school and she was moved by it.
Meghan decided that she would take all her Barbie dolls, their clothing and accessories and bring them to India and give them to the girls at the school. Moreover she wanted to shop for a child's sari before she visited the school so the girls would not think her too strange with her fair skin and blonde hair. She especially didn't want them to think she felt she was better than them. Hence the need for a large suitcase that needed to be checked!
No one told her to do this act of great kindness. No one talked to her about denial or sacrifice. She simply searched her heart and knew what she wanted to do. I sat down with Meghan to ask her why she had decided to contribute in this way. Her answer was simple and profound. "I have more than I need and I don't play with my Barbies very much. I think that the girls at the school probably don't have too many toys and would love the dolls. Doing it makes me feel good."
I am blessed to have Meghan as my friend. She has taught me much about denial and sacrifice. At its core it is about a heightened awareness of others and then mobilizing that awareness in action. It is about grace and graciousness. It is about simplicity in the giving. It is about denying the myths and stories we make up about lack or abundance. It is about effortlessly stretching ourselves into our innate goodness. Above all it is about sacrificing what is less important to follow our life's purpose, our unique gift to human kind, our individual contribution.
Meghan's contribution goes far beyond her act of generosity. From the mouths of babes comes the deep wisdom of the true meaning of sacrifice and denial. It is the reverse of everything I understood it to be. In that new knowing, Meghan has now challenged me to simply be "more." Thanks Meghan!