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Waking Up

“A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Narayanan Krishnan is an award-winning chef from Madurai, Tamil Nadu in India. He worked with prestigious hotels for many years, including the Taj Hotels in Bangalore, and was on the short list for an elite job in Switzerland. Until something happened, something that compelled him to make a dramatic turn toward the extraordinary.

Krishnan describes the moment everything changed. While on a visit to see his family, he says. "I saw a very old man, literally eating his own human waste out of hunger. I went to a nearby hotel and asked them what was available. They had idli, which I bought and gave to the old man. Believe me, I had never seen a person eating so fast, ever. As he ate the food, his eyes were filled with tears. Those were tears of happiness."

That was in 2002. As a result of that singular crystallizing moment, Krishnan quit his job as a chef and began feeding meals to the homeless in Madurai. The next year he founded the Akshaya Trust, a nonprofit that today serves breakfast, lunch and dinner to hundreds of indigent and elderly people in Madurai.

Here's Krishnan's story, in his own words:

To me, Krishnan is a great example of a soul waking up. How many times before this had he walked past the homeless and the hungry on the streets of Madurai? Probably hundreds. But this time instead of merely looking, he dared to really see them, and (more importantly) to see the beauty of God in them.

As Mother Teresa famously said of the people she served, "Each one of them is Jesus in disguise." But to willingly see the world in this way takes a great deal of courage, because we intuitively know that if we do then life will not be about us anymore. It will be about something greater, a Noble Cause that has captured our heart and broken it wide open.

In our heart of hearts, we're all hungry to spend our lives in service of a Noble Cause. But many of us are afraid to really open ourselves to that way of living because we suspect it will cost us a great deal. And the truth is, it will. But it will offer us even more. And if that is not what makes for a beautiful life, then what is?

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” — George Bernard Shaw

As I ponder Krishnan's story, I wonder how awake I really am. I wonder how willing I really am to open my eyes and really see, to let it break my heart wide open, so I can truly live at last.

Are you awake?

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