Kolkata and being shamed
Howdy! I'm in India. Eight close pastor friends and I will be studying faith and money in one of the world's largest nations. Haven't been here long, but already I wanted to share some of the things God is putting on my heart.
First, a big thanks to the Religious Life Leadership Team. This morning at breakfast one of my teammates gave me an envelop full of letters from students (and Laura and Jennifer) and it reminded me just how much I'm loved. I needed it after some of the stuff I saw yesterday and will surely see this week.
So what is India like? Hmmm... It may make more sense for me to describe Kolkata since that is the only city I've been in so far.
Let's start with the plane, actually. Maybe it will suffice to say I'm tired. Like, zombie tired. So I haven't exactly been the most chipper person. Okay, I've been cranky. On the plane one Indian gentleman was so close to me getting on the plane that I could feel his breathe on my neck. In my heart I was building up defenses thinking of nasty things I'd say and generally being contemptuous for no reason at all. That is when he stepped on the back of my shoe and said (in the softest, gentlest, meekest voice ever), "I'm sorry" - I don't know if I've ever felt so immediately shamed and spun around so quickly by someone who was so oblivious to the gift they just gave.
I shouldn't be angry when other people just because they don't meet my expectations. Why be angry when they don't see the world as I do or appreciate using lines? (no, really, lots of people don't queue up well here). Their existence is not my own. Anger in our differences closes my heart off from them and I miss out on the beautiful child of God they are. It is also so prideful and off kilter just to expect that my way is the best and these people are misguided to not know it yet. Surely they could have prepared more for my coming. ;)
With my wonderful reality check I now flew to India. We rode a bus to our lodging. The roads? Crazy. The people? Fast. And it is loud. I wonder if they ever have a "horn free" holiday to cut down on stress. In a lot of ways the chaos is beautiful. But it is also infinitely sad. If you stop long enough to look at the children, most are under fed. People have red eyes that long for another fix or perhaps just some food.
Not everyone here looks so bad, but not everyone here looks happy either. Just so much missed because people are in such a hurry.
When we got out of our bus the locals were waiting for us. Children were thrown our way, adults suddenly became our best friends, and all manner of people watched our arrival in the (modest) walled facility we are staying in. The Baptist Mission Society. I'd recommend it if you come to Kolkata. Anyway, I felt shame yet again as I unloaded my huge suitcase and turned my back on the masses to go secure a bed and such food for several days. They even have wifi.
Wait, I haven't even finished yet.
Then after we get settled in we go to the Sisters of Charity. We have to be orientated because we will volunteer with them for several days. We sit down with some English speakers and proceed to read these sheets about best practices for caring for street urchins. Apparently, there is a whole network of businesses that are all mafia like with their scouring of the streets for money. Sex trafficking is rampant. If feels all judgmental but suddenly I'm questioning the motives of those on the street and pride wells up in me again. More shame.
So that leaves me with a problem. I've got too much shame. I have to do something. Two main arguments arise in my mind...
1) we think of blessing as synonymous with food, material possessions, and security. If these are blessings, why don't the people on the street (who God loves) have these blessings as well? I have plenty of these "blessings" - a big ole pile of blessing. I should be sharing it with others. There shouldn't be the factors that lead people to such poverty. At best, these forces are misunderstandings. At worst they are demonic. Where do I fit into the meager existence of these people?
2) let's say there are other blessings God gives... Ones that are not food, material possessions, or security. If I want to relieve myself of this shame and just say "oh I bet God is blessing them like I'm blessed" it would come out in some other way, but I don't see it.
How will I respond to this? I could justify myself by saying I worked hard to get where I am but deep down I know what I have are all gifts any way.
I could just ignore it. There are so many people in Kolkata alone that need help. It is easier to just turn a blind eye. But that sure doesn't sound like what Christ would do.
I know I can't not respond. It feels silly telling people on the street how much Jesus loves them when they can't cover their own shame. Yet, I can't seem to cover my own despite my wealth of resources.
I don't know yet what change this experience will work in me. I also don't think I've seen the "worst" of it yet. Tomorrow I will be serving in Prem Dan, one of the Sisters of Charity Homes. I plan on seeing Jesus there.
Just going to keep trying to love others like Jesus would and let the rest fall where it may.
Hopefully I can collect my thoughts a little better too, but I'm still acclimating.