The little boy was playing soccer when he got knocked to the ground. He jumped up in anger, ready to hurl a rock at the miscreant who’d committed the crime.
But everyone stared, wondering if he’d really do it. He realized he mustn’t. He ran to his grandfather in tears. His grandfather kindly reminded him that everybody gets angry.
“Even you? The Mahatma?”
Yes, even me, said his grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi.
The hero of India’s independence movement and the inspiration for nonviolent civil rights champions, such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., told his grandson: What matters is what you do with your anger.
“I loved that story,” said the Rev. Brooks Berndt of the First Congregational United Church of Christ, who read it to his 3-year-old daughter from a new children’s picture book called “Grandfather Gandhi.”
The book was written by that little boy, the grandson of the Mahatma (that’s a Sanskrit honorific similar to “saint”), when he was all grown up.
Arun Gandhi is now a celebrated peace activist in his own right, as well as a journalist and lecturer. He is co-founder of the M.K. Gandhi Institute of Nonviolence, based at the University of Rochester in New York. And he’s the author of nine books, including the autobiography “Legacy of Love: My Education in the Path of Nonviolence,” which details his upbringing in apartheid South Africa, before the family returned to India and Mahatma Gandhi became the famous figure we know today.
Arun Gandhi is coming to the Portland area for the King holiday weekend, and he’ll join Berndt and his congregation for a talk, book signing and “dialog sermon” about the philosophy of nonviolence and civil disobedience that Gandhi developed and wrote about — and King read about and adopted.
“That’ll be our focus: King in relation to Gandhi,” said Berndt. “Sometimes, we forget about the importance of Gandhi in the civil rights movement. When King led the initial bus boycott in Montgomery (Ala.), he lifted up Gandhi as his inspiration.”
By coincidence, it was after Berndt read that soccer-field drama and mentioned it in his own sermon about anger that the opportunity arose to bring the grandson of the Mahatma to Vancouver. He’ll be here courtesy of the Wholistic Peace Institute, based at Concordia University in Portland, which hosts Nobel Peace Prize winners and other peace activists on visits to this area. Berndt is a member.
“We are so excited to have someone like this in Vancouver to celebrate King’s birthday with us,” he said.
The dialog sermon will be part of the church’s regular 10 a.m. Sunday worship. Refreshments and breakfast breads will be available during a break at 11 a.m. At 11:30 a.m., Arun Gandhi will give his own talk on the subject “Stories About My Grandfather Mahatma Gandhi, and Educating for Peace.” After that, he’ll sign copies of his books.
A $15 donation is requested of adults who attend, but no one will be turned away. Children are free. The church is at 1220 N.E. 68th St. Call 360-693-1476 to learn more about the event. Visit arungandhi.net to learn more about Arun Gandhi.
Bits ‘n’ Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you’d like to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org