Wangari Maathai, honored with the Nobel Peace prize in 2004 for her work on reforestation in Africa, spoke recently at the conference in Chicago. The full transcript of her keynote address is now available, at Friends of the Green Belt Movement, North America.
Her story is profoundly inspirational and her philosophy, as outlined below resonated deeply with me as you will no doubt realize if you have been reading my posts, particularly on the issue of right work.
This is an excerpt from her speech, :
Another lesson I brought from Japan was the spirit of the 3R campaign, which I know you are familiar with (reduce, re-use, repair and recycle). In Japan I learnt that the Buddhist word mottainai embraces that concept of not wasting resources but using them with respect and gratitude. I have been sharing that word, mottainai, wherever I go because I think it’s a beautiful word and I have been consciously practicing the 3R campaign, especially by re-using my shopping bags.
I learnt a lot in Japan during my visit. Towards the end of my stay I participated in a seminar where one Prof. Suji told a story that I would love to share with you as I conclude. If you have heard tell it before, bear with me. It is the story of a day in the forest when a huge fire broke out. All the animals fled, except this hummingbird, which decided to stay and put out the fire. It flew to the nearest river, picked up a drop of water with its tiny beak, flew back and poured that drop on the fire. It repeated this action over and over again, each time bringing a drop of water and pouring it on the fire. The other animals watched from a distance, laughing and mocking the hummingbird. The harder they laughed, the harder the hummingbird worked. It remained committed, persistent and patient. “What do you think you are doing?” the other animals asked, “You are too little for the big fire. You should be overwhelmed.”
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You should be overwhelmed! Without stopping her work, the hummingbird answered, “I’m doing the best I can.” That is, my friends, all we are called to do: The best we can.