Archive for January, 2010

just do it.

While there are obviously many responses to poverty, I think I’m learning that, for me, what I really need, is just to respond. I was walking to work this morning, thinking about being five minutes late, when I noticed something really unexpected but beautiful. At least ten of the street dogs near my office were wearing vests. Little doggy vests. Apparently, someone went around and put vests on the dogs to help keep them warm at night. (You might not expect it, but it gets really cold here at night)

Now, this might not seem like much, but it felt like a glimmer of hope to me. A glimpse of what I’m called to do. I can’t change the realities for the millions of people living in poverty here, but I can respond in small ways to the immediate needs around me. There are thousands of street dogs in this city, freezing in the cold each night, so for most of them, those vests meant very little, but for the ten wearing them, it was a random, undeserved act of kindness. One that probably made all the difference.

It doesn’t make things less complicated or unfair, but I feel like I have an idea of the next right step. I just have to move forward and do something, however small and inconsequential.


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I am struggling to fall asleep tonight. I finished that last post, shut down my computer, and settled into bed. But all I can hear are the sharp barks and cries of street dogs fighting. I tried to focus on the gradual shift of mucous from one side of my face to the other (the joy of allergies), but that inability to fall asleep gave me too much time to think.

I started to think about the little kids I know that sleep on the street. I hoped that they were safely away from the fighting dogs. Not likely. Safely away from biting rats. Not likely. Safely away from racing cars, groping hands, pain-numbing drugs, empty stomachs. Not likely. I pulled my blankets up around my head because the nights get cold here. I wondered if that family has enough blankets. Not likely. What am I doing here? What am I doing with my lap top computer, wireless internet, a closet full of clothes, and at least 6 bags solely designed to carry things?

Sometimes, I can convince myself that I can and should have all of these things, all this money, and it not really matter as long as I realize that they ultimately belong to God. I tell myself that having nice things is good. There’s nothing wrong with it. And it’s true. I can’t really even find an argument for it’s rightness or wrongness. All I know, is that tonight, with the street dogs barking outside, there are few things more irrelevant in the world than the bulk of my possessions. What makes me different? Why am I entitled to this life of protected luxury and those sweet children relegated to sorting through my trash? I have no rights. No predestination to comfort. There is something remarkably wrong with this picture. I’m not saying I’m throwing my computer out tomorrow. Although, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t, I just don’t want to. I’m only sharing with you my thought process tonight.

I shouldn’t be shocked that the sweet puppies I see snuggling on the side walks grow up to be the snarling dogs I hear outside. I shouldn’t be surprised that begging children carrying drugged babies might become exploiters to the next generation. These children barely stand a chance. If they survive childhood, in all likelihood, the life waiting for them is only filled with more toil and struggle. What would I do? I would probably sniff the first glue-soaked rag I could get my hands on. Just forget. Just dull the reality, and it becomes doable. I’ve never known this desire. My reality, my experiences, are almost always savored. It’s not that we’re called to destitution, but neither are they. So, something must change. Something has to be different.

I walked past that family tonight. The little girl (I confess, she’s my favorite) was standing on the sidewalk, watching her mom cook. I stopped to chat for a moment, and the mom just said, “Bhat korechi” (making rice). I laughed and said, “Yeah, me too, I’m going to make dinner at my house” in an effort to connect with them. She motioned with her head to the tall white buildings behind her and said, “Your house is there? In a building?” “Yes. In a building.”

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List Maker

I never thought I was one of those people, but I am. I make lists after I complete the tasks, just for the satisfaction of checking them off. It’s a little pathetic, but I prefer to think of it as thorough. But, seriously, I have become a bit of a manic list maker. Maybe living in a city that feels like it is perpetually in a state of chaos makes me want to maintain as much stability in my little world as possible.

I’m making grocery lists, to do lists, to get rid of lists, to think about lists, blogs to write (this is actually not one of them), and countless others. I start to get this little panicky feeling in my stomach from time to time, but a good list making session settles that right up. I secretly think it’s an overcompensation for my lack of organization. My lack of overall dedication to the cause of life.  (I feel like I have to make some excuse for failing completely in my only New Year’s resolution ever, to write more.)

Tomorrow, I start a new week. And soon a new month. I have been here for over six months already, which is almost impossible to believe. Life races forward, as it always has. There are, and always will be, endless opportunities to start over, to begin anew. My Christmas break felt like a fresh start. I was reminded again of why I was so grateful to be here, so conscious of how fortunate I am. I think somehow I started to believe I was making some great sacrifice by living here. I’m not. I just had an amazing lunch of curried chickpeas and paratha for 20 cents. I am daily bombarded by sights, sounds, and smells you cannot (and may not want to) encounter anywhere else. Here’s this week’s list of to do’s/goals: 1. yoga on the roof at least once 2. barbecue on the roof with friends in honor of Australia Day 3. write 1 letter a day 4. watercolor once 5. start a new book 6. explore alone 7. cook Indian food

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I am resolved this year. I am determined to completely alter my personality, transform my daily habits, and overhaul my chocolate consumption. It is a crusade, and I will succeed. Just to show you how bad things have gotten, I just wrote an Ode to Chicken Rolls as a blog post. I’m considering posting it, but feel it betrays, between pathetic attempts at poetry, the truth. Food rules my life here. It is the comfort you look to. But here is my true resolution. I want to write once a week here. It might be as bad as an ode to chicken rolls, but I want to force myself to process and write because that is how I learn and figure out what is on my mind. For instance, tonight, my mind is on living well here. Choosing to be the person and do the things I want to be and do someday, when I feel like I’ll be able to, now. Good luck to me.

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