Guadalupe Meets Buddha

zhuijaojaoGrowing up in the Midwest, my world was pretty small. Growing up Catholic and attending parochial schools made my world even smaller. To say that my life was insular is an understatement. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to know more – I just didn’t know anything else. Everyone that I knew had a mom and a dad; went to mass on Sunday; lived in a modest house; played in one another’s backyards; had a crucifix and pictures of President Kennedy and Pope John XXIII somewhere in their home; and were mostly happy (at least on the outside). I’m glad that I grew up and out and away from that life but I still remember my childhood with nostalgia. Some things haven’t changed but many things have. I believe that I have.

When I reflect on where I came from and where I am today, I become more aware of the tremendous chasm between what once was and what my life is now. I’ve lived in England. I work in Mexico. I’ve traveled the world. I have friends in England, China, Mexico, Canada, France, The Philippines and The Netherlands. I have strolled through castles in Scotland and Germany. Toured museums in Paris, Madrid and Rome. Walked down cobblestone streets in England and France. Prayed in temples, churches, abbeys and cathedrals in London, Strasberg, Mexico City, Zhujiajiao, Heidelberg and Amsterdam. As an adult I’ve had experiences that I couldn’t even imagine as I child. Today I live only a few miles from where I was born but my world is so much bigger. I respect where I’ve come from and how my upbringing formed my conscience and my beliefs but I am grateful for the experiences of this life that have expanded my horizons.

Last month I joined my manufacturing team from Mexico City on a trip to China. We were touring factories in Shanghai to give the team from Mexico some insight into successful practices being employed there. We were entering the offices of one facility and my good friend and business associate from China stopped in front of a statue of Buddha that is prominently displayed in his lobby. He asked if any of us had a coin. A member of my team from Mexico pulled a peso out of her purse. She was asked to place it on the statue of Buddha, which she did. It was explained to us that this simple act would bring peace and good luck to us and to our friend from China. I couldn’t help but think of all the statues of Our Lady of Guadalupe that I have encountered in nearly every factory, employee lounge and public place in Mexico. Of course my friends from Mexico honored the request because they are so familiar with devotion to Guadalupe. Buddha in many ways is looked upon the same way in China. His image is everywhere and perhaps is dealt with somewhat superstitiously, as are images of Guadalupe sometimes in Mexico.

But on that day, at that time, the connection was real. It’s not often in business that I have a spiritual awakening. Placing the coin on Buddha wasn’t just some hocus-pocus good luck nonsense. I may have grown up in a small town in the Midwest and my childhood experiences may have been limited but here I was in China with my friends and co-workers from Mexico sharing this moment. We weren’t arguing over political or religious differences. None of us were intent on proving our practices or our beliefs were the best. Instead we were reaching out and embracing one another’s cultures. It was done with respect and humility. We had all come from different places but that day we were focused on our similarities not our differences.  And I believe that God was pleased and we were all blessed.




10 Things You Should Know About Mexico City

I’ve been working in Mexico City again this week and I’ve made some ‘not so keen’ observations that might help others that travel to this beautiful city of nearly nine million people.

Here goes:

  1. People appreciate it greatly when you “try” to speak Spanish – even a little bit. It’s not too hard to remember “si” or “buenos dias” or “gracias”. I’m always greeted with smiles when I speak Spanish (or perhaps they’re just suppressing their need to laugh at my poor pronunciation).
  2. Men don’t wear shorts here. Only children and touristas.
  3. Public prayer is encouraged. In the El Palacio de Hierro department store in which we were installing a new shop there was a small shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe at the employee entrance. Several people blessed themselves upon arrival or departure from work. Imagine that at a Macy’s!
  4. Margaritas are for girls. Next time order a Michelada or a tequila.
  5. Refried beans is the breakfast of campeones! Just eat it. It’s great with your eggs.
  6. Mexico City is in a valley of mountains; the elevation is high and the air is dry. Wear a sweater at night. It gets cool even in the summer – nobody will think you’re a sissy (unless of course you order a Margarita).
  7. There is a rich and vibrant history here. There is French, German, and English colonial heritage as well as Spanish. The Mexican people have also held on to many native customs and traditions. How sad for the U.S. that the same is not true.
  8. Mexicans work hard. My installation crew here could easily “out-work” any crew I’ve had in the U.S. or Europe.
  9. Films dubbed in Spanish in Spain are annoying to Mexicans – According to Jorge, “Rambo or Rocky shouldn’t speak ‘proper Spanish’ with the lisp!” “Muy loco!”
  10. If you look like me people will ask you if you’re Steve Martin – happens every time I’m down here. I usually just smile and say “si” or “buenos dias” or “gracias”.

Evening sky over Mexico City

    I’m looking forward to getting home tomorrow but I will miss Cuidad de Mexico a little. Especially Jorge, Hector, Gustavo, Miguel, Marco and Marcela who did an amazing job this week and welcomed me into their city as well.

Tonight it seems only fitting that I ask Our Lady of Guadalupe to watch over each of them. May she intervene on their behalf and ask her Son our Lord to bless them and their families.

Oh yes – #11. We’re very Catolico down here, too.



Below is a link to a slide show from my trip this week – disfrutar!