Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Aung San Suu Kyi and the homecoming court

In Stephen King's "Carrie," the mean girls contrive to have a misfit outcast elected homecoming queen only to find out what retribution really means.

A town in Michigan has re-written the ending, with the girl who was elected to homecoming court as a prank becoming a celebrity. Instead of being humiliated, this girl will be feted. The stadium will be packed with supporters at Friday's homecoming game, and she'll be decked out in celebratory duds courtesy of local businesses.

According to the Detroit News,
She hadn't sought the position. Students were free to vote for anyone in the class.
Perhaps her selection should have made her suspicious. She is a free spirit with few friends. Her black outfits and strange hair colors don't mesh well with other kids in the rural community.
But she has a guilelessness that doesn't see the bad in people, said her mom. Her reaction to winning was simple: She was happy. "She's just sweet. She doesn't have a mean bone in her body," her mom said.
 When she learned that her selection was a prank, she decided not to go. But she changed her mind.
"Going to homecoming to show them that I'm not a joke," she wrote on Facebook. "Im a beautiful person and you shouldn't mess with me!"

The story spread quickly in the small town. People stepped up. Interestingly, most of those in The Detroit News are adults with their own memories of high school social pain. They plan to attend Friday's game to cheer when she circles the field in a convertible.

In life terms, learning compassion in high school may be more valuable than geometry.

What makes this fodder for a Buddhist blog? 

This girl has the confidence that comes from knowing your own innate goodness and beauty -- so rare among adults, let alone those in high school. This town, with its smiley-face water tower, has compassionate adults who stepped in to ease pain instead of increasing it.

The Buddha said we create our suffering -- that our suffering is like being hit by two arrows: the first is the actual pain, the second is the pain we inflict on ourselves.

This girl deflected the second arrow with the help of a bunch of compassionate protectors.

This post was going to be about Aung San Suu Kyi, who is touring the US after what Buddhist teacher Sharon Salzberg describes as a 19-year meditation retreat enforced by the Burmese military. She is an inspiration and a veritable quote machine.

But some of her quotes aren't that far off from the sophomore class rep to a high school homecoming.
 Asked about being punished with isolation by the military government, Suu Kyi said, “I didn’t think they meant to punish me. Perhaps I see too much good in them.”
During her trip, Suu Kyi said she was struck by how many people were aware of what was happening in Burma and how much they cared.
“The greatest human quality is kindness,” she said, “It costs people nothing, and I don’t know why people are so miserly about being kind.

Speaking to students at Columbia University, Sharon Salzberg reports that Suu Kyi told a young woman who came to political consciousness through Amnesty International that she never received any of the
thousands of letters being written on her behalf, but she knew they were being written, and was strengthened by that.(There's a Facebook page in support of the homecoming rep with more "likes" than the population of the town.)

Suu Kyi said, “Use your anger in a positive way. I always say people in despair should use their anger to help others.”

(photo by Alex Wong/ Getty Images)

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