This is a small story about Swami that happened about fifteen years ago. Somehow, its littleness reveals the bigger picture of the kindness, sensitivity, ability to bend the rules, and respect that Swami expresses for others. It typifies my repeated experience of him over nearly twenty-three years.
A christening ceremony was scheduled to follow one of Swamis many Sunday Services at the Expanding Light. All the families but one had gathered at the altar, everyone beautifully dressed, the newborns especially, in their fanciest whites. One family was late, and then very late. We all, a temple full of us, waited and waited. And then we waited longer. I, for one, was getting impatient. I had the thought, whats the big deal, why dont we just begin?
But Swami tuned in to the importance of the event for the family of the christened child, not to mention the child himself, and so we continued waiting. Twenty minutes, then thirty, then longer. And the longer we waited, the more impressed I was with Swamis sensitivity to the needs of the family and what this event meant to them. The late family, who finally did arrive, must have been in a frantic panic, preparing/dressing/rounding-up the rest of their children and dealing with their needs.
Swami remained unruffled; obviously, he had no expectations or needs of the situation, so he didnt seem the least bit frustrated, impatient, or put-out. It was as though everything were going according to plan-the Divine plan-and he then continued with the ceremony.
As part of the ceremony, he said a few words to each of the newborns. I watched him look into their eyes, smile, and greet them and welcome them to this world. He spoke, not as an adult to an infant, not condescending or patronizing, but as one soul loving God, to another. In this one small gesture, I saw that, regardless of age, Swami speaks to our higher selves, holding us up to the light and the highest affirmation of who we are.
One thing I learned in my studies of psychology years ago is that human nature ever strives for consistency. My experience of Swami over decades of a very close friendship, witnessing him in both personal and impersonal contacts, is the consistency of his graciousness and respect for others, no matter what their age or gender.