Sylvia Baldwin will carry the stories with her.
The New Hope-Solebury High School teen was one of five area students who sat enraptured and inspired, as Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, shared tales from his life as an advocate for peace and nonviolence Saturday at a private breakfast at Cross Culture Indian restaurant in Doylestown. The breakfast was sponsored by the Peace Center in Langhorne, where the 79-year-old social activist is an honorary member, and was one of three events he attended this weekend.
As the students plied him with questions on topics as varied as education, bullying, war and the importance of family, Gandhi shared stories from the years he spent living with his grandfather, from age 12 to 14. In one, he threw away the still-usable butt of a pencil on his way home from school, thinking the elder Gandhi would simply supply a new one. Instead, he was told to find the pencil he’d discarded. The lesson? Even a simple pencil uses the world’s natural resources and to waste one, as he had, was an act of violence against nature. It also was an act of violence against humanity, depriving those living in poverty of access to such resources due to over consumption.
“I will never forget that story,” said Sylvia, who will be traveling to Rwanda with PeaceTalks Radio this summer. “When he talked about self-improvement, that every day we should write a list of our weaknesses and work on turning them into strengths — that really hit me because I’m surrounded by a lot of people who think only about themselves and not how they can be a better person in the world.”
Gandhi, who was born in a then-segregated South Africa, also told the story of meeting a member of the South African Parliament who’d been responsible for apartheid. Gandhi met the man while living in Bombay. Though his first impulse was to humiliate him out of anger, Gandhi chose to show the man and his wife around the city. Gandhi’s kindness and hospitality moved the man to tears by the end of his visit and he returned to his country to fight apartheid, at the risk of being thrown out of his political party.
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