I have a tattoo of Gandhi on my right shoulder blade. Most people that notice it either compliment it or quietly admire it; it is truly a beautiful work of art, and I am proud to be the canvas that carries it. The occasional ignorant person asks if it's my grandfather, or simply asks who it is. A particularly drunk person once asked if it is Barak Obama. Rarely does anyone ask why I chose to permanently adorn my otherwise pristine, fair skin with an old Indian man's wrinkled face and bald head--until this week.
And despite the occasional so-honest-it-hurts blog entry, I'm not that comfortable putting my thoughts and feelings into words. I have the ideas in my head, but I tend to stumble over my words and invalidate myself. I'm not comfortable sharing human emotions with others; I shed my tears in the privacy of my own bed with the lights out while my husband's asleep. Being vulnerable, as my teacher trainees will tell you, is one of my biggest challenges.
But time and time again in a matter of a few days, I've been asked to express something that is very central to my beliefs. I did not choose my tattoo at random. I have always joked with my husband that I should just memorize the wikipedia entry on Gandhi to regurgitate when asked, but I never have, and that would be cheating and not very true to the spirit of the decision and the artwork.
There is a lot that's not right in this world, and we are either part of the problem or part of the solution. Gandhi was one man, but he was one man whose actions resulted in freedom for innumerable people. He lead a whole nation to fight against the British Imperialism that ruled them and to begin breaking down barriers between castes, classes, and religions within the country. His insistence on nonviolence influenced Martin Luther King Jr and increased the effectiveness of the Civil Rights movement in the US. He was one man with radical beliefs who spoke up, and his audacity to think that he could make a difference changed the course of history for the better. He was one man.
I've always believed in the incredibly positive potential of humankind. I grew up believing everyone could be saved by ascribing to one faith. I still believe that, but my horizons have broadened. I no longer believe you must become a Christian to be saved, but the idea of salvation is still very real to me. Salvation and redemption come through love, through choosing to love everyone because you recognize that you are made up of the same stuff and come from the same place and are all part of the same Divine Being. We could all be saved if we stopped seeing "us" and "them"--if we were only able to see the Good that connects us all. As one person, I can be love and be a reflection of love that can change the whole world. I may never be as recognized or influential as Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr., but I can change one person's day for the better. I can inspire one person. I can "be the change."