Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sahayam Home

I've taken a lot longer than I wanted to talk about the visit to the Sahayam Home in Madurai (India). This home is for widows and mothers who have been forgotten - not just by the society, culture, and community but also their own families.

Jessica has been before and met and heard some of their stories. She told me a little bit about it and what to expect. As with so many other experiences in India, there was a big difference between what I thought I knew and actually hearing and experiencing it. Many of their stories were very similar: After their husbands died they are at the mercy of their family [and maybe, just maybe, a small pension fund from the government [like $6 or $7 a month]. Most of these women spoke of how thier children reluctantly took them into their home. Most were abused, either emotionally and/or physically. Forced to sleep in servant quarters or even on the front steps. Beaten. Told daily that they are worthless and their own children wishing they weren't there. Some women left and even begged on the streets.

Let me explain by saying that I had been informed of some of the incredibly sad and heartbreaking stories about the paths these women have traveled. But seeing them tell their own story is what really hit me in the gut. Who am I kidding? Every time I think about these women, much less try to talk about them, I get a knot in my throat, speak with a wavering voice, and I have to fight back tears.

The most amazing thing about these women, though, is the complete lack of bitterness and anger. They actually were sad because thier children are not Christians. These women pray for their children to be touched by the grace of Christ so they can be reunited. Their capacity to forgive is far beyond me.

It's also really important to tell you that these women have a capacity for more than sad stories. They have created a new family at the Sahayam Home. They danced, sang, made jokes, and laughed a lot in the few short hours I spent with them. Here's a clip of Mary showing off her dance moves and Rani giving her a hard time:

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