New Delhi, India [From Journal 3/14/2012]
“We’re in Delhi right now! I’m sitting on an Indian train and definitely having a once in a lifetime experience. The seats are old and slightly corroded. The windows yellow with age and dirt. The car is dimly lit and our “A/C” consists of fans secured to the ceiling…in an attempt to ward of the overwhelming smells that surround us. I love it!”
India exposed me to a new world. From the smell of strong spices to the smell of age-old urine at the train station, my perspective on the world was abruptly changed.
I love this video and it definitely makes me want to go back to this incredible country, however it is not a real representation of India. India consists of the elephants, the Taj, the scenery, yes, but it also involves the child beggars, the rail thin cyclists, the starving women, and the hunched over elderly.
“A girl was quietly begging for money before we got on the train. She had made her way across the tracks, barefoot, dodging broken glass and rusty nails, to come ask for money. It broke my heart…it kills me, here we have everything and she has nothing. We were told that if we gave, the children would swarm us but now how I wish I would have given her an apple or banana!”
I remember wondering how we could possibly pass her by when for some unknown reason I had been given the opportunity to travel the world while she had the “opportunity” to slowly starve day after day. I later learned that by giving the children food we perpetuate the ugly cycle of child beggars. And while I do agree with this philosophy, it still rends my heart to read my journal and remember that little girl who was so hungry she could no longer smile…starvation written on every inch of her little body and in her vacant eyes. How can I possibly pass by her?
“It just never feels right, from our bargaining to get lower prices when we could pay more, to the street children begging for basic survival… Just lots of thoughts as I sit here…we’re passing India ‘shantytowns’ and people scouring the urine soaked railroad tracks… Meanwhile, we have a member of our travel group who is constantly complaining and having a bad attitude about some insignificant thing… I just hope I can learn from this and not allow my insides to corrode at the unfairness of it all.
So yes, the video of India was far from realistic. Yet, (and this is what I learned today), if we were to watch videos of tidy Washington, D.C. and the Grand Canyon, or scan pictures of Yankee stadium and Park City ski resort, we would not get a real representation of the United States of America. We have innumerable homeless on the streets (who are picked up and dumped to other locations when VIPs come to visit). We have starving mothers who sell themselves to get money for their children. We have druggies who are slowly dying because they don’t qualify to get into rehab centers. We have children who are without permanent homes but are passed from home to home in the foster care system.
So I ask you to ponder the following question carefully and honestly:
What did you feel when I wrote of the starving Indian girl as opposed to the homeless in the US?
Both are starving and void of the comforts we enjoy daily. Both struggle to survive and find little hope in the future. How are they different really? And yet my natural inclination is to sorrow more for the little girl. Have we really become so calloused to the starving among us? The other day I met a homeless man on the street and as we talked he continually praised God and encouraged me to read His word. He changed me even though initially I (erroneously) assumed I was serving him by talking with him about his life.
I have been reading The Street Lawyer by John Grisham; one of the most inspiring novels I have read on homeless in America. I cannot read this book and not feel the call to address the needs of the homeless among us. They might not be as heart-warming or heart-wrenching as a little street urchin in India, but they are just as important.
My point? We have a lot of work to do to change this world. Whether you believe in a next life (when everything will be “made right”) or not, we have a solemn duty to do our part. All people need our help, no matter where they live or how they look.
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India was the “refiner’s fire” of my SAS trip.
Ghana made me appreciate what I had, Tibet reassured me that democracy is a blessing, but India showed me the best of humanity and the worst of humanity. And I will never be the same.
Remember, how “oh-so-good” our lives truly are.