My Honeymoon Story
Aug 1, 2004
I wasn't going to write about this. Then I got an email: "You've got Nipuned!" I opened up the email and saw this:
Nipun, I know you like to keep the ego in check, but I thought I'd share our latest language development:
1) to be the recipient of a random act of extreme kindness
?Dude, he got Nipuned last weekend by Cheyl?
Sounds kind of funny when we say it.
On July 2nd, the day after my wedding, I had committed to speaking at the Young Jain Convention, with about a thousand youth from around the country. Instead of a honeymoon, it was service. And my ever-so-compassionate wife insisted I stick to my committment, made prior to our spontaneous wedding decision.
I walk into the building, check into the teen-secured Westin Hotel, and get my badge. I wasn't Jain, mature, or wise but courtesy of Bhupenbhai's recommendation, I got to be a guest speaker for the day.
My room was the Stevenson room, so I walk on up to see how many people I was going to speak to. I peek into the room: absolutely empty. No one. Immediately my monkey mind started thinking, "Gosh, these guys must not have publicized it or perhaps they're just not organized. Maybe my topic of service isn't interesting to anyone. Should I even stay here?" I stayed. Who cares, right? At the end of the day, I was speaking to myself anyhow.
I got ready to give a talk to myself. Really.
By the time I came back from my final restroom trip, I saw bunch of folks there. I didn't know if it was more embarassing to talk to a 90% empty room, or talk to myself. :) Then bunch others started coming in. And more. And more. I realized that 250 youngsters had signed up to pack the room! They were just running a little late, apparently.
I spoke my heart out, as usual. Deep down, I know this is all a play I have signed up for and that the reality in front of me is my gateway to that depth. So I spoke about service and like always, didn't make a single mention of CharityFocus. I could care less if people join CharityFocus or not; this is about something far subtler.
And the kids ate it up. One question after another, it kept on coming. Someone even publicly asked, "Are you a motivational speaker? Because like, you're the most amazing speaker I've heard. I'm so inspired!" And I responded, "No, I'm not a motivational speaker. I'm not trying to inspire you nor do I have any agendas. I'm only speaking my truth -- service."
After the talk, many kids sacrificed their front-line lunch seats and surrounded me with geniune thank-you's. More questions. "Why are you vegetarian?", "How do you survive?", "Can you tell us about CharityFocus?" "Are you religious?" "I gave up drugs and cigarettes recently but why exactly don't you drink?" Heavy duty stuff. As I was responding to a question -- I can't remember which one -- one of the listeners started crying.
"So who is your teacher," another guy asked me. I went on to describe a few inspirations, and then I said, "But really what's in front of me is my ultimate teacher. Like you guys," and with that I touched his feet. He was stunned! I just casually went on to the next questions. A few minutes later, that same guy bends down and touches my feet. What a powerful moment!
A couple of coordinators were around, and they patiently waited till the crowd disbursed. They asked me to speak again during their break hour. "These kids are willing to give up their break time to hear more service stories. We'll manage to fit it in somehow. Will you please come at 5:30PM today?" I told 'em I'd have to check with my wife. :) It was definitely a tough call, but I agreed anyways.
It was 5:30PM. On the walls, I saw posters plastered with: "Nipun Mehta is speaking again!" I had gone through two wedding ceremonies in the last two days, tons of family over from out of town, lots of chores to do in between, and much chaos all around. I was tired. But I was there, with all my heart -- if the kids care this much, screw my tiredness.
I talked about -- surprise -- service again, to another packed room. I briefly mentioned "smile cards", little acts of kindness that go far. Two days later, the helpothers.org website was inundated with requests from all across the country, with tons of flattering comments about what inspired them. Apparently, these kids had started tagging each other with acts of kindness, even at the convention itself. Consequently, the "Smile Team" ordered me to not mention smile cards in any talks until we had massive inventory on hand. :)
The response from that day has been phenomenal. I never realized I had so many Jain friends -- Jigar's brother told him everything, Raj's friends from Miami asked him if he knew Nipun, Trishna's cousins told her about it, Anish's friend from Chicago was there, and Paras himself was teasing Guri about conservations of girls talking about my ring. ;) Many personal emails, so many friends of friends, all these smile cards, new volunteers, partnerships in dharma ... makes one wonder if we are far more deeply interconnected than we assume. It called for a smile, even without the smile card. :)
It was the day after my wedding and Guri and I should've been at some honeymoon somewhere. Instead Guri sent me to serve. And I received in full. Even Guri, in absentia, got three rounds of applause (and blessings) during the talk.
So when I got that email from Delaware, I realized that I indeed have been Nipuned. What a privilege.