Last week I was dancing and singing in India at my nephew’s wedding. This week I’m jet-lagged in Missoula. But the afterglow continues.
Being at a wedding, it was hard not to think of my mother. She loved weddings and always wished for everyone to find love.
My sisters had similar thoughts. We reminisced and projected my mother into the scene of my nephew marrying an Asian Indian woman in a Hindu ceremony. We wished she could pop back into the world and join in.
Mostly, my mother was shy and insecure. She didn’t learn to drive until age 34. I often wished she had more confidence.
But there was one place where my mom found her voice, early and often. For mysterious and obvious reasons, she became anti-racist in the 1950s, before anti-racism was a thing. She delighted in visits from my father’s Japanese friend, Carl Tanaka. When a Black family moved onto our all-White dead-end suburban street, she was the first to greet them with welcome gifts. She then sat my sisters and I down, and told us with piercing clarity that we would ALWAYS treat every member of that family with nothing but respect and kindness. They quickly became our friends. I have great memories of hanging out with my friend Darrell, who was the closest to me in age and in school.
What I didn’t understand about my mom’s anti-racism—until last week—was that she also had a solution. My sisters told me that my mother’s favorite solution to all that ails the world was inter-racial, inter-cultural, and inter-religion marriage. Of course, I’m not naïve enough to think that any single strategy could solve racism, but last week, during a three-day Hindu marriage ceremony, I returned home transformed and preoccupied with the idea that we can and should love one another.
The internet tells me that love one another has Christian Biblical origins . . . and more. Here’s an excerpt from a site that discusses “love of neighbor” in Hinduism.
Love of the neighbor or the “other soul” is a fundamental requirement for a functioning Hindu who aspires for final liberation from this world. Any injury or insult inflicted upon the other soul is ultimately injury inflicted on oneself—or worse still, the higher being. Neighborly love is integral for one’s social existence in this world. The Anusana Parva (113:8) in Mahabharata encapsulates this wisdom and dictates that one should be unselfish and not behave toward others in a way that is disagreeable to oneself. [From: http://what-when-how.com/love-in-world-religions/love-of-neighbor-in-hinduism/]
The facts were that Stephen Klein married Sahana Kumar last week, in a beautiful coastal setting just south of Chennai, India.
In a marvelous stroke of luck, I happen to be Gayle Klein’s brother and Stephen’s Uncle John. Along with the dancing singing (which I may have overdone), I was completely taken by the intercultural love and acceptance. The Kumar family welcomed Stephen and all of us to be with them not only in the celebration, but in relationship. At the Sangeet, we were invited to dance a Bollywood and a Hollywood dance. We were terrible AND we were completely accepted. To be immersed in another culture, to learn about Hinduism, to experience glimpses of the Southern Indian cultural ways of being . . . was AMAZING.
In love and in relationship, we often fall short. It’s hard to love our politically different family members. It’s hard to love when we feel annoyed. Sometimes, as I heard the famous Julie and John Gottman say, it’s even hard to find the time and timing to love our romantic partners. But love is big and, thanks to my sisters and Stephen, Sahana, and the Kumars, I understand love a little better this week. The intent to love people who are different than us; the invitation to be in relationship across cultures and generations; the desire to be as loving as we can be . . . those are the ways of being my mom might be shouting from the heavens.