Excerpt From Jane's World
It was a beautiful day in 2013 when we drove to Madison to hear the Dalai Lama speak. I was excited when Dane told me he had tickets for us. We brought our bikes, as we often do because we enjoy riding around Lake Monona, on the university bike loop, or up and down State Street.
Dane had heard the Dalai Lama speak once before. He was sure I’d enjoy seeing him and hearing his message. We had read parts of his books out loud to each other, watched a few documentaries about him, and found his words of wisdom to be comforting.
We parked a few miles away from the Alliant Center, unloaded our bikes, and took a leisurely spin around Lake Monona. It’s an easy 11.5 miles on a mostly paved path, with a few sidewalks, some city streets, and one short section where we always seem to get lost before finishing the loop.
As we were circling the lake, I yelped and slammed on my brakes. I had spied the tiniest of tiny turtles! He was on the road in the only section of the loop I consider busy. I gently picked him up, slipped him in my pocket, and rode quickly down to the lake.
I had parked my bike and hopped off before Dane even had a chance to catch up to me. I showed him the turtle and said, “Come on!” I was in a hurry to get the little nipper near the water, leaving it up to him whether he’d like to go for a swim. I knelt on the grass and extended my hand with the tiny turtle on it. Off he climbed, through the grass, and right into the water. We watched him swim away with silly smiles plastered on our faces.
When we reached the Alliant Energy Center, we were surprised at all the hoopla. A helicopter landing area had been blocked off, and the Dalai Lama was being escorted from the chopper into the building. We locked up our bikes and hurried into the Center, only to discover there was a long wait because everyone had to be searched. Despite the delay, my excitement was mounting!
By the time the event began, the building was packed with no empty seats in sight. It was a respectful group of people, quiet and eager to listen. Even the toddlers sitting on their parents’ laps must have known something big was going on because they never made a peep. There were also people who looked well over ninety, some using canes and walkers, and every age in between. I’ve never heard a group that large be so quiet. You could have heard words of wisdom being dropped.
That is if you were lucky enough to be among the people who understood the man’s heavy accent—which, apparently, included everyone but me. I strained my ears. I leaned my body forward. I cupped my hands around each of my ears. I focused. I frowned. I grew frustrated. I knew this was un-Dalai-like behavior, but I was there because I wanted to hear his message. I wanted to be enlightened.
I tried to hold still like all those toddlers. I kept glancing at Dane, asking him what the Dalai Lama was saying, but he shushed me. He was sitting still and perfectly straight, with a soft, knowing, angelic half-smile on his face—that I’d have liked to smack right off him.
A translator was sitting next to the Dalai Lama, and you’d think he would be repeating everything he said, word for word—but no, he only helped when His Holiness couldn’t think of the word he wanted to say. I managed to pick out a few key words; kindness was one of them, compassion another. I heard both more than a few times.
As I struggled to make out what the great man was saying, I had a wild urge to kick the seat in front of me every time everyone but me roared with laughter at what I could only guess was the Dalai Lama’s great sense of humor. Dane had told me about it. Fortunately, laughter is universal, and I did enjoy seeing and hearing his humorous expression. Even through the thick accent, his laughter was gay and delightful.
Eventually, after a long, thunderous standing ovation, we filed out of our seats along with the rest of the masses. Dane and I held hands as we maneuvered through the crowd, working our way back outside and to our bikes. We were just in time to see the Dalai Lama get helped into the helicopter.
Standing there, watching the helicopter lift off, Dane turned and asked me how I had liked the talk. Still holding his hand, I said, “Blah, blah, blah, compassion and kindness, blah, blah, blah.” Dane's mouth dropped open, and we both started laughing. Then I explained how I had barely understood anything the man said, except for those two words.
As we mounted our bikes, I continued describing my frustration. I said I’d been hoping for a new, insightful message, one that would renew my faith in humanity. Following me onto the bike path, Dane replied, “Kindness and compassion are still tops on the list, Jane.”
I looked back over my shoulder, smiled at Dane, then turned and watched for tiny turtles as we biked back to the car.
Originally Published March 9th, 2017 in the Crawford County Independent & Kickapoo Scout
Jane shares excerpts from her weekly Column called jane's World every week. Occasionally she shares the whole story.