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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Memorable trip to India includes unforgettable visit

January 11, 2009

By Robin Farmer
Richmond Times Dispatch
January 10, 2009
 
-- Not many teens can say they met the Dalai Lama.
 
Derek Henderson, 13, of Mechanicsville can. And he has the photos to prove it.
 
"I just walked in there . . . met him and the whole day I couldn't believe it!" said Derek, who along with his family visited the spiritual father of Tibet last month during a trip to India over the holidays.
 
The Henderson family initially thought seeing relatives and the Taj Mahal would be the highlight of their two-week trip.
 
But shortly before departing, they learned they would meet the man voted the most popular and respected global leader in a recent survey.
 
The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his steadfast opposition to using violence in his quest for Tibetan self-rule.
 
"He's a very pleasant fellow, and you feel like you're in a presence," said Mark Henderson, Derek's father.
 
"You're in awe! But he's down to earth" with an infectious laugh, he said.
 
"Here's a guy who has met President Bush and [President-elect Barack] Obama. It's a pleasure to meet someone who is a world leader."
 
Henderson's wife, Tania, was born in Chandigarh, India. Her cousin arranged the meeting for the day after Christmas.
 
"My cousin is a deputy commissioner in a town next to Dharamsala. He had some connections so we got a meeting. It's not commonly done," she said.
 
As required, the family presented scarves to the Dalai Lama for blessings.
 
"He was so friendly and peaceful. We were just honored," said Tania Henderson, who had her copy of "Freedom In Exile: The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama," autographed.
 
His holiness warmly greeted the Hendersons and eight other relatives at his temple.
 
What was supposed to be a sevento 12-minute meeting stretched into nearly 30 minutes as the Dalai Lama initiated conversation that touched on terrorism and other topics.
 
"He talked about meeting Bush and Obama and he had good things to say about both," Mark Henderson recalled.
 
"He wished both of them well. He touched on India and Pakistan relations and his plight and how he hoped things would change for Tibet. He also said he was saddened that his people are losing their culture."
 
The Hendersons also enjoyed his humor.
 
"My uncle asked what he foresaw for 2009," recalled Tania Henderson.
 
"The Dalai Lama gave a slight chuckle and good-naturedly stated that he has no way of knowing."
 
Contact Robin Farmer at (804) 6... or rfarmer@timesdispatch.com
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