The Three Pillars
Posted by Danny Lopez on Feb 20, 2018
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi
My partner Cherie and I recently returned from a retreat in Ahmedabad, India called Gandhi 3.0. This was an international gathering of leaders, activists and change-makers with a focus on connection and gratitude. The retreat is the brainchild of our new friend Nipun Mehta, one of the founders of ServiceSpace, and is based on the simple idea that if diverse people can all hold space with a focus on inner transformation, something may shift in the matrix of our inter-connection and create a field for radically innovative solutions for today’s challenges.
We had the fortune of meeting and forging relationships with many incredible individuals from places like India, Nepal, Portugal, Spain, Israel, Dubai, China, Canada and the U.S. Our days were spent in deep dialogue with one another while we visited local sites like the Sabarmati Ashram, a place where Gandhi spent twelve years with his wife Kasturba, and some slum communities with our dear friend Nimesh “Nimo” Patel, where he and others are engaged in social and cultural activism. During one of our group discussions we were asked to think about a gift or blessing from our lineage that we are grateful for. I pondered this question for a few moments and then it came to me as clear as day…
I was taken back to my childhood, when as a young boy I would make the 100-plus mile trip with my family from my home in Vaughn north to Española, where my grandmother lived. This was my dad’s mother, Eva López, a woman small in stature but large in strength and character, who brought eleven amazing children, my aunts and uncles, into this world. Her husband, my grandfather, Jose Inez López, died in 1975 at the age of 79. I was just two years old and don’t remember him, but some of my earliest memories were of our family visiting my Grandma Eva in her humble adobe home.
I can’t recall specific visits, as there were many, and they all seem to meld into each other the older I get. Although specific moments escape me, larger, underlying themes and feelings remain strong. As we drove the narrow roads through the village of Santa Cruz, a place where my father and his siblings walked to school and rode their bikes, I was always reminded of simpler times. Although I did not grow up there, things felt comfortable and familiar. As we drove into the dusty driveway, located across the street from the cemetery where my grandfather was buried, a feeling of safety and serenity would come over me. This felt like a sacred place. We never knocked on the door and entered her home through a narrow, brightly lit porch. I would always run my hands across the white plastered adobe walls and recall how cool the room remained no matter if it was the dead of winter or the height of summer. There was a distinct smell too, a mixture of dust, wood and some combination of foods, usually beans and chile.
Once inside, we would make our way to the kitchen where my grandmother would usually be cooking or cleaning. She would stop what she was doing and greet us all with a warm hug and smile (Pillar 1). We would exchange a few words and then be asked to sit at the table as she retrieved food that was simmering on the stove. We knew that nothing more would happen until we were fed. (Pillar 2). The meals were always simple yet fulfilling and usually ended with the adults enjoying coffee and us kids being prodded to go outside and play.
Outside, we would quickly find our way down to the orchard and ditch. Her home sat on four acres and was lush with fruit trees and ample room for hyperactive children. After what felt like hours running through the property we would return to the house to enjoy a snack of sweet bread or fruit. My parents and others who may have dropped by during the day were either still in the kitchen or in the living room sharing stories and enjoying each other’s company. At the end of the day I always managed to find myself inside seated either next to one of the stoves or on one of several couches listening to my aunts and uncles speaking in a mix of English and Spanish. Oftentimes I would nod off as their conversations took on a rhythmic and melodic tone. So comforting, so safe…
The visit would conclude with someone noting the time and need to return home. We would get up and spend what felt like an hour wrapping conversations, saying our goodbyes and hugging each other. The visit would come to an official end when grandmother would hug us, bless us and thank us for our visit. (Pillar 3). I never realized the importance of these moments until years after she was gone.
As I shared this reflection with my new friends in India these memories took on a more profound meaning. Thinking back to those ordinary yet very meaningful visits, I now understand the lesson. Every time we visited my grandmother, three subtle yet very important things happened. We were greeted when we arrived, we were fed with food and love, and we were thanked for our visit.
Pondering this question about my lineage in this ancient and beautiful land of India, I realized that this very thing was happening here. At each meal, on every visit, and when we gathered together, we were being greeted, fed and thanked. Oh, how I wish my grandmother could see her three simple and beautiful acts embodied and practiced by so many different people. I wish I could tell her today just how much those things mean to me but I cannot. What I can do though is honor her legacy by asking myself how I can greet, feed and thank all those whom I have the privilege of serving.