Saturday, March 24, 2007

Celebrating Human Greatness in New Orleans

Celebrating Human Greatness” is an initiative to commemorate the Brahma Kumaris’ 30thanniversary in the USA. The intention of this initiative is to introduce the BKs to the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the USA. The approach we are taking is to gather together groups of community leaders in each selected city to meet each other in conversations about moments of greatness in their lives, and to reflect on the intrinsic qualities that make up human greatness.

The initiative was launched on January 25 in New Orleans, a city that was struck by a devastating hurricane that reduced the population by 50%. This city was selected because of its countless stories of individuals who emerged their greatness to help restore the community. Two separate events were held and both were wonderful successes, generating great appreciation and interest on the part of the New Orleans residents, and great enthusiasm in the BK community to continue service there.

Sister Mohini of New York gave the opening remarks on greatness and created a peaceful atmosphere for people to look within themselves. Chris Rose, finalist for the Pulitzer prize in newspaper journalist from New Orleans, then gave his experiences from the days following the hurricane’s devastation. He related how a volunteer relief worker, tired and scruffy from a long journey from another state, confronted Chris on a torn up street and asked, “Who’s in charge? Where should I go?” Chris replied, “No one’s in charge,” as his eyes welled with tears. He pointed towards a street covered with water and told the man to just start helping. Several days later, Chris encountered the man again. The man still hadn’t slept – but this time he was on fire with a deep desire to reach out and contribute.

The participants at the gathering – city officials, NGOs and religious leaders – then told each other stories of how they responded to the hurricane. They were apprehensive about calling themselves “great,”but there was an awakening to the idea that greatness is an innate quality of the human spirit.

The second New Orleans conversation, held the following day at the Ashe Cultural Center, followed the same format, and was topped off by a remarkable performance by Grandpa, a local jazz and blues singer. The old man hobbled onto the stage with a warm grin and sang a version of “What A Wonderful World” that brought the house to tears. Grandpa’s ability to share his spirit in such a beautiful, unbridled was gave living breath to the concept of greatness.

Both programs concluded with meditation, toli (sweet gift) and blessings. The guests left brimming with gratitude, compliments and eager to continue their conversations about human greatness.

No comments: