It’s interesting to me how many people tell me that I’m a Buddhist. I have never studied Buddhism. I am not at all inclined towards religion. Any religion. I would never call myself a theist. But hearing so often that I’m a Buddhist has gotten me to wondering where my values and my world view came from.
Two institutions influenced me in my youth. Girl Scouts and Jesus.
Although I am not religious, and did not grow up in a religious family, I did attend 12 years of Catholic school. Unlike some Christian sects, Catholics, it seems to me, concerned themselves more with the New Testament than with the Old Testament. So over the years of my education, I developed an idea of Jesus — He was an itinerant teacher. He befriended and hung out with the poor, the sick, and the outcasts. This last included women. He was kind. He was generous. He was not enamored of the wealthy.
Girl Scouts showed me how to follow Jesus’s example. We learned to help other people at all times. We learned to be useful; to leave a place better than we found it; to be a friend to animals; to be courteous and cheerful. We visited the sick and we fed the hungry. We learned to be trustworthy. To be generous. To be kind. We matured into humility. We learned all this by doing. In addition, we learned to paddle a canoe, to build a campfire and cook on it, to pitch a tent, to use a compass and a map.
That’s it — Girl Scouts and Jesus, the guides of my youth. Both of them taught me about love in action; love in the every day real world.
I had many teachers after that, but the trajectory of my life never changed much from the path that the Girl Scouts and Jesus set me on.