“He talked about when he was a kid, he just wanted to play and they had to threaten to whip him so he would study,” Tait said. “But they had a special yellow whip for him.
“We laughed about that.”
Tait spent three days at the Dalai Lama’s Dharamshala, India, compound last month, having private talks with the Buddhist master, lunching with the Dalai Lama and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tutu and sitting in on conversations between the two spiritual leaders.
“It’s so out of the box,” Tait said. “Sitting there, having a conversation with the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu about kindness, compassion, love, forgiveness, envy, greed. The biggest issues in life. It was great. Two of the greatest leaders for peace and justice of our time.”
As surprised as Tait was to get the phone call invitation from a Dalai Lama emissary a few weeks earlier, the mayor was hardly a random choice.
Tait has been leading efforts to make Anaheim a “city of kindness.” When first elected mayor in 2010, he ran on a campaign of “freedom and kindness.” It was idea he’d been working on since a 2004 meeting with a father who lost his 6-year-old daughter in a car accident.
The father, Edward Jaievsky, was inspired by the memory of his daughter talking about kindness and began putting up “Kindness is Contagious” signs in Anaheim. And it was contagious: Tait joined him in the project and then expanded it.
Among the noteworthy endeavors is a Million Acts of Kindness program launched in 2013 in the Anaheim City School District. Saying hello to a new student, picking up trash, collecting Christmas toys for underprivileged kids – students were asked to perform 50 such acts of kindness. Collectively, they hit the 1-million target in October.
Those efforts attracted the attention of the Dalai Lama and played a role in the Dalai Lama’s decision to celebrate his 80th birthday at Anaheim’s Honda Center on July 5. And the efforts prompted the invitation to Tait.
“The values of His Holiness are very much alive in Tom Tait,“ said Lama Tenzin Dhonden, a San Diego-based attache for the Dalai Lama. “Tom Tait is a very compassionate being. And Anaheim could become the model for many other cities.
The effects of Taits’ approach can come quickly. Anaheim school Superintendent Linda Wagner thinks the program has been largely responsible to the steady drop in suspensions, which this year are on track to be half of the 442 issued the year before the program started.
A token of kindness
When Tait first met the Dalai Lama at his compound April 22, he gave the Tibetan Buddhist one of Anaheim’s City of Kindness tokens. He also gave him a Ducks’ jersey, embroidered with “HHDL” – for His Holiness the Dalai Lama – and the number 80, for his 80th birthday.
“I didn’t know how much time we’d have, if it would just be a handshake,” Tait said. But it was quite a bit more, starting with a 45-minute conversation that included Tait’s wife, Julie, and a friend, Laguna Beach’s Paul Heeschem.
Tait said that the Dalai Lama started his day at 3:30 a.m., with five hours of meditation.
“He said he meditates because everyone he meets that day, he wants to bring joy, and he doesn’t want to act better or higher than anyone,” said Tait, who owns an engineering company. “He’s a joyful guy. He’s funny and humble. I was worried about how to greet him, but there’s no protocol. He doesn’t go for that.”
The Dalai Lama eats one meal a day, a 90-minute lunch. Tait joined him and Tutu for two meals. The two spiritual icons are writing a book together, “The Book of Joy,” and documentarians were filming their conversations, Tait said.
“Desmond Tutu talked about Nelson Mandela,” Tait recalled. “He said when he’d gone into prison, he was angry and aggressive, a kind of militant. He talked about how suffering can change people – how Mandela came out and was at peace, nonviolent.”
The two men’s message of joy and compassion was “impactful,” said Tait, a Catholic who believes the same values are key to most religions.
“The way to happiness is through kindness to others,” Tait recalled the Dalai Lama saying. “Compassion is especially important toward one’s enemies. It leads to understanding and inner peace.”
Small gestures are part of the equation.
“Every day, he pulled out (the token) to show me he was carrying it,” Tait said. “He loved it.”
The trip, paid for by Tait, was a break from City Council disputes that Tait sometimes puts himself in the middle of. He was the sole opponent of a $158 million tax subsidy for new luxury hotels and of the initial proposal for new stadium lease with the Angels. He also has been the council’s most outspoken advocate of a district election plan that would give Latinos a better chance at equal representation on the council.
But through it all, he has continued efforts to grow kindness.
“A CEO builds a new culture by establishing core values,” Tait said. “That’s what we’re trying to do in the city, build a culture of kindness. Then your crime will drops, your bullying at school will drop, your littering will drop. You stimulate the city to get better and all these good things begin to happen.”
Contact the writer: 714-796-6753 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Original link and photo http://www.ocregister.com/articles/tait-660311-dalai-lama.html