Saturday, April 9, 2011

Home is Where the Heart Is

Since my first trip to India Madurai has held a special place in my heart. Or rather, held my heart captive. I think about it everyday. Memories flood my thoughts of samosas with Rosy & Nehi at the illy coffee shop, drives to remote villages in the Jeep with Paul Raj, picking up Richard's girls from school, dinner with Paulus' family at the farm, the rich colors and not so rich smells. I can't wait to return! I feel so comfortable in Madurai. Not to sound cliche but theres this peace--a sense of being complete--when I'm there.

In the states I constantly struggle with anxiety, doubt, depression, mood swings, the whole gamut. Sometimes I worry that I keep going back to India in order to "run away from my problems." But if that were the case I think the effects would have worn off by now.

There are few things I've stuck with in my short life. I begged to take piano lessons and lasted for a couple years but never practiced, violin lessons lasted half a semester in the fourth grade, swim team one season, cross-country ended during tryouts, as well as cheerleading, french classes (je n'ai sais pas), I attended four colleges obtaining only one degree, etc, etc.

During junior year of high school dad was returning to India and I begged him to take me along. Over the years my parents became smarter and rented uniforms instead of investing too much in my whims but this time didn't take much convincing. I think he knew this experience was worth the support--thanks dad :)

My intentions were similar to the optimistic start of any new venture but this experience made a lasting impression. Looking back I realize that God was giving me a glimpse into the reality of the world and the beauty of a life that followed Him.

Everyone I met working for the Samuel's was so devoted, so giving, so humble. There was one special afternoon at the HIV clinic that I will always remember. Paulus told me to put my camera away before we went inside. I was nervous because the camera had become my safety net (you don't have to interact with your environment hidden safely behind a lens). Walking through and meeting the nurses and patients I became really uncomfortable. Not because of the frailty of the patients but because of the warmth in their eyes. These people were happy, filled with joy. Laying on there death beds, in a one room clinic, on old cots. I was really confused.

We continued to the back of the clinic and sat down with Paulus & Daniel in the office, where I snapped the photo seen with permission. Here we gave them the 8,000 Rs ($200) we raised to send the staff on a weekend vacation. Expecting big eyes and dropped jaws we were surprised by their response. "Thank you but we don't need a vacation. Can we give this to the children?" After an awkward silence, the sound of your ego being graciously deflated, dad started to talk openly with Paulus & Daniel. He asked me to take notes of the conversation so we remembered what was discussed. I opened the journal Paulus took me to get a week early that had yet to be written in. Dad asked what they needed from us. Their ministries were impeccable, organized and run well by locals. How could we truly serve them instead of our ego? Over chai and biscuits I scribbled some notes that set the course for our "mission."

This conversation changed my life. I started to realize life wasn't worth living for myself. The novelty of the violin wore off once I realized I wasn't going to be in Mr Holland's Opus but the excitement of living for a greater purpose to partner with those in need has kept me going.

It's not always easy. I don't want to encourage the idealize concept of humanitarian work in an exotic land (to others or myself). But it is so rewarding. Especially when I remember the work has nothing to do with me. Pressure's off. No anxiety about messing up or making the wrong decision and sending history spiraling off course. Just the beauty of being one small piece of the puzzle and living a life outside myself.

I hope that everyone can discover their own Madurai and have conversations that direct their path.

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