Did everyone get up early to watch Meghan Markle’s wedding yesterday? If getting
married in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle to a prince is not a fairy tale ending for an
American girl, I don’t know what is. But, when I read a CNN article about what one of
Meghan Markle’s mentors had mentioned about Meghan, I realized that Meghan was the
real thing and that their union was meant to be. It was an interview of Maria Pollia,
Meghan’s theology teacher at Immaculate Heart High School and Middle School in Los
Angeles. Immaculate Heart High School and Middle School, by the way, has a slew of
impressive graduates, including Lucie Arnaz, Tyra Banks, Mary Tyler Moore, and Yara
Shahidi amongst many others. When Pollia first heard of Meghan’s engagement to Prince
Harry, her reaction was genuine. She said, “He is so lucky!” Normally, one would expect
the opposite, like: Oh, she’s so lucky!

Forget about all the negative trash that the tabloids want to spread, or the fact that
Meghan is an accomplished actress. Maria Pollia knows the real Meghan. Pollia felt that
Prince Harry was the lucky one because of Meghan’s sincerity and her unrelenting spirit to
pursue good. Pollia echoed what most remember of Meghan from school, that she was, “a
young, curious, and deeply caring student who seemed mature beyond her years.” But,
what Pollia revealed next was provocative. She isolated the one trait that distinguished
Meghan’s character, saying, “She was also a very unusually compassionate person, and
developed that compassion quite early in her life.” Pollia once spoke in class about how the
Catholics cared for the marginalized as a way to reach out. Pollia then conveyed to the class
that she had volunteered at a soup kitchen on Skid Row, and described what she had seen,
and with what she was confronted. After the class was over, Pollia was approached by
Meghan who confided thus: “You know, when I was about thirteen, I volunteered at a
kitchen on Skid Row and I was really scared. But I really, really, really want to go back.
How did you do it? How do you go there?” We know from an interview given by Meghan
for the book, The Game Changers: Success Secrets from Inspirational Women Changing the
Game and Influencing the World, that Meghan had acted upon the advice given by Maria
Pollia that day, saying “I remember one of my mentors told me that ‘life is about putting
other’s needs above your own fears’” Meghan went on to say, “Yes, make sure you are safe
and never, ever put yourself in a compromising situation, but once that is checked off the
list, I think it’s really important for us to remember that someone needs us, and that your act
of giving/helping/doing can truly become an act of grace once you get out of your head.”
Meghan took Pollia’s advice and immersed herself into the soup kitchen. She was there not
only to serve food but to meet and get to know the people. “She created relationships with
the people who were at the kitchen because she would come back,” according to Pollia.
Meghan volunteered at the soup kitchen for her entire Junior and Senior year at Immaculate
Heart. Pollia said that, “She used to come back and talk to me and catch me up on how was
Betty, how was Joe, how was his dog. . . . (Meghan) knew everyone’s name. She knew
everyone’s story. And that is what gave her joy, is really connecting with people.”

Pollia also recalled how Meghan had once been offended by a Procter and Gamble
commercial about a dishwashing liquid that assumed that washing dishes and doing
housework was a task reserved for women. At the young age of eleven, Meghan wrote to
the company and convinced them to change the script in the commercial from, “women are
fighting greasy pots and pans” to “people are fighting greasy pots and pans with Ivory
care”. With just one letter, Meghan managed to alter a company’s bias against women.
Though this all happened before Meghan enrolled at Immaculate Heart, Pollia recalled that
Meghan spoke often about outreach and justice, but not once boasted about the monumental
change that she had secured at a major corporation.

There is a reason why Prince Harry said that he knew Meghan was the one as soon as he
met her. Meghan’s sensitivity to those around her, empathy for their problems, and her
sincerity in helping to solve their problems was glaring. This is compassion. Compassion,
the one character that distinguished Meghan from others according to Ms. Pollia, happens to
be one of the most essential qualities embodied by the Buddha. In fact, our objective of
gaining enlightenment is consumed with how to enhance this essential quality. Compassion
to the Buddha involves losing one’s preoccupation with oneself, and redirecting our
attention to those around us. In other words, compassion means to empathize with others,
and then to harness our talents and energy to serve the community.

When one exudes compassion as Meghan does, invariably people notice it. Meghan
Markle is a beautiful woman, but her inner beauty was what caught Prince Harry’s
attention. Meghan, who began polishing herself by helping at the soup kitchen, had already
established herself as a spokesperson for several charities such as Global Ambassador for
World Vision long before she had met her prince. I believe that Meghan’s obvious passion
to promote women’s equality, women’s suffrage, and the general betterment of woman all
over the world was plainly visible by Prince Harry who himself spearheads charities such as
the Invictus Games to support wounded and injured armed services personnel. Real
compassion is something that people cannot deny. (Eisei Ikenaga)