This past week I had the pleasure of meeting and having coffee with a sharp younger guy who grew up in a very successful family business, and as a result had the opportunity to shoulder a lot of responsibility in that business at a very young age. He seized that opportunity, and as a result he has developed life and business experience well above the average for his age. But despite his accomplishments, he maintains a kind, humble nature and a good sense of humor.
But these are all things I learned about him through an almost hour-long conversation. What I learned about him instantly upon meeting him is that he is a practicing member of the Sikh religion.
Sikhism is a religion that grew out of the Punjabi region of India (and is where most Sikhs live today), and is based on the ideals of honesty, equality, fidelity, meditating on God, and never bowing to tyranny. Despite conflicts with both Hindus and Muslims in the past 100 years, Sikhism is historically a very tolerant religion that has co-existed with other religions for centuries.
But the most striking foundation of the Sikh religion is that Sikh men are required to wear uncut hair, so most Sikhs you meet will have a long beard and a turban on at all times.
The best part of our conversation was when this gentleman told me about his work with the Sikh Research Institute, which is not an evangelical organization, but seeks to spread understanding about the Sikh religion and people in an era prone to religious intolerance.
“When I walk into a room, I feel instant accountability,” he told me. “Not just for my business and my family, but for my faith and people.” We talked about how he looks at the outward expression of his faith not as an obstacle but as an opportunity. Everyone remembers him, for better or worse, and he makes sure it’s for the better.
I couldn’t help but consider how this unavoidable feeling of accountability, and his constant sense of being a part of something much larger than himself, must have played a role in making him the charismatic, warm, and receptive person he is today.