Tag Archives: charity

What does it all mean……………….

Yesterday, I wrote about a man taking my shopping cart in the parking lot for me. You can read about it here.

I have been thinking about why that had such an impact on me and this is what I came up with. I think I will ramble a little – so please stick with this one – I promise there is a point at the end.

Living in India was an absolutely amazing experience that took me way out of my comfort zone. It jumbled up my routines and took me away from my favorite people. Living there gave me opportunities I would never, ever have here and it made me question a lot of what I thought I knew to be true.

I mostly think of myself as a kind and even generous person. It’s true that I can be cranky and selfish just like anyone else but I truly do enjoy giving other people a reason to smile and (mostly) don’t mind helping out.

But here comes India full force – where people really need – and not just a hug or a dinner brought over or a carpool for their over-scheduled kid or someone to take their shopping cart in the parking lot – they need food and water and a way out of horrible, horrible situations. And please know that I understand people in America need too – I know that – and I understand that the needs in America can be very real and can be overwhelming too. People are sick and people are hungry and people are hurting. I get that. But not in the same magnitude as in India – not so many people all at once and not so desperately and not without options. Right now, I live in a bubble – a green, lush, over-fed bubble with people who do not hesitate to help each other out. We are getting by just fine. Sure we endure struggles – but it is really not the  same.

I will show you what I mean – this man is taking a bath outside in a busy market area. The water is not clean and he is in public and I am taking his picture.

The streets are dirty and there is human and animal waste all over the place. That means that you have very good chances of getting pretty sick at some point. Especially if you do not have a nutritious diet and clean drinking water. And this is the road outside the entrance to the neighborhood we lived in – an upscale area. This is not a slum.

It is not only not uncommon – it is actually quite common – to see children unattended on the streets.

We have been having some pretty significant storms in our area and many people have been without electricity for several days. News reporters were interviewing several people affected by the outages and one councilman said, “people here feel like they are living in a third world country.” Dear heavens. Really? I understand he was going for the dramatic effect – but please.

Again, I appreciate that the people who lost power probably lost the food in their fridge and were hot as heck in their houses and were certainly inconvenienced. It probably is a hardship for some of them to replace their food. And of course, the elderly and young children and anyone who is sick could be in real danger. But it is temporary. And it will be fixed. Welcome to America baby where there are churches and libraries and friends houses to go to. There are options. The temporary pain of a power outage is certainly not like living in a third world country. I promise you, it is not.

I miss that about India – that the people of India don’t let bumps in the road slow them down. And I think I learned to calm down a little bit myself. I learned that if it will end up as a funny story one day, you can get through it. That the Indian people as a whole don’t take so much for granted. I would like to believe that clean water is a right and not a privilege but that is just not a reality – and electricity – well, that is icing on the cake. It really, really is.

Anyway, back to why I appreciated the man taking my cart.

Like I said, I used to think I was fairly generous and kind. India really made me question if that is true. I volunteered, sure – but I never fully committed to any one group. I gave myself a pass because I was still pretty involved in my kids classrooms which took up some time – and moving to India was a huge adjustment for me so I gave myself time to settle in before raising my hand too much – but you know what that sounds like – the excuses that they are. I know I contributed in many ways to help out people, but frankly it wasn’t enough. I truly could have done more. And why did I let myself get too overwhelmed to dive fully in. Because I knew I would eventually get to escape and move home to the land of temporary problems.

The hardest thing to accept about my time in India is how many times I turned my head away from a young child knocking at my window. If I remembered to bring crackers or cookies I would share those every time. But honestly putting food in the car wasn’t top on the list in my routine of getting out the door. I tried to remember – but I could have done better about it – and I should have. I regret that I simply did not do better.

Begging in India is a tricky thing. And helping beggars is even trickier.

Most people will tell you absolutely not to give to anyone begging for several reasons. Any money you give them usually goes to some sort of ring leader (read gang leader), if you give to one person you could end up with a flock of people around you and the mob mentality in India is not safe, giving to beggars encourages begging, it’s illegal, if you teach a man to fish, blah blah blah.

And it did happen to me more than once that I gave to one person and more people surrounded me. It was certainly uncomfortable. I even saw a woman have her change purse stolen. It was snatched right out of her hands. She was trying to give every child in front of her some change and one child said, “uh-uh lady – that is going to be all mine.” And we said, “see why you don’t do that?” And she said, “what difference does it make if he has all my change, I really don’t need it. It’s just my change.” And that was the right attitude. But it’s hard to get there.

When you see a small child knocking on your window, you let all these reminders run through your head. Why it is not a good idea to encourage begging – there is real danger in it – but how do you end it. You know that you cannot – it is much bigger than one person. And when the car, thankfully and finally, pulls away, you are still left with a pit the size of Texas in your stomach.

And then, when you have to explain all of this to your own children -augh.

The one thing my children never asked me was why they got to ride in an air conditioned car with a driver while so many children barely had enough to eat. They understood so much about our experience there and I am very proud of the way they took so much of the whole experience in and made it a part of who they are. But this is the one question that never escaped me. Why them and not me? I counted a lot of blessings in India – but that didn’t do the kid knocking at my door a whole lot of good.

And then you get back to your little oasis called home and you close the door and you want to shut it all out. In India it is particularly important to have a “home”. With familiar things and pictures of family that you miss and just some good old macaroni and cheese. But you cannot get away from the need that others experience.

At first, I would even say I was even proud of how we treated our staff who worked in our house. Pride goeth before a fall, no doubt. We paid more than most people, we gave lots of time off, we gave frequent bonuses, we gave them the things we did not “need”, we didn’t ask them to do things we would not do ourselves, we shook our heads at those who haggled too tightly over what was a reasonable salary to hold on to a few more pennies, blah blah blah.

But it was never enough. Our cleaner wanted help with tuition for his son and housing. Our cook and his wife just took what they wanted – no matter how much we gave, they always took more, and our driver started off his first day by telling me he had made a bad investment and lost all of his savings and tuition was due for his kids school. How do you balance that? When is enough enough? What is enough? What is not enough.

I know we made their lives easier – or at least we tried to. I feel good that we were reasonable enough to work for. But the problem for staff that works with expat families is that eventually those families leave and nothing is permanent. We have been paying our housekeeper for the past few months and we haven’t been living there. We have told him it is time to get another job and I did a lot to put him in touch with the right people. But he doesn’t seem to believe it. Eventually we are going to stop paying him but, but , but…………

So, when the guy in the parking smiled because I had done something nice – even though it was really insignificant – it made me smile. I said in my original post that being so happy about the whole event was over-reacting. And that is true. The world is not going to change because someone put away someone’s shopping cart – but maybe if we all are a little nicer to each other we will at least make it through the days a little easier. Especially in a country where most people don’t need much – maybe we all need kindness. Maybe that is the best start of all.

Unfortunately, today, I am right back where I was before. I want to be really helpful to people who really need it. Hopefully I will figure out a way to do that.

The Golden Temple Continued…………..

I don’t think I am overstating it when I say that Ann, Julia, and I were in awe of the Golden Temple. It is a peaceful place with such a spirit of community about it. None of us really knew too much about the Sikh faith and we walked away absolutely in love with its ideals.

The fact that they have such a commitment to reach out to those in need is amazing. Our guide told us that, beyond each gurudwara having a kitchen to feed those who are hungry,  the Golden Temple also sponsors between 200 and 300 young women each year for their weddings. They select girls who cannot afford dowries and the temple sponsors them. (And, yes, it would be great to get rid of the whole dowry system but it is a reality and every year hundreds of girls can get married who might not have without the temple’s help.)

Another lovely aspect of Sikhism is that they do not believe in the caste system – every one is equal. Someone told me once that every Sikh has Singh in their name and that Singh means lion. I was also told it means brother, signifying that they are all connected to each other. This concept was in practice at the Golden Temple. So many people come to volunteer their time and they all seemed pretty happy about it. (By the by, supposedly the women all have Kaur in their name which means princess. I could totally get used to that. Just call me Princess A Reason To Write.)

The Sikhs have some lovely cornerstone ideas for their faith. According to Wikipedia, there are 10 beliefs in Sikhism. They are:

1. Believe in one God.
2. Treat everyone equally.
3. Live by the 3 main tenets –
Practice constant meditation and prayer.
Make an honest income and do it honorably.
Share earnings and selflessly serve others.
4. Avoid the 5 sins of ego
Pride, Lust, Greed, Anger, and Attachment
5. Get baptized.
6. Keep the code of honor by abiding the gurus teachings.
7. Wear the 5 symbols of faith:
uncut hair, wooden comb, dagger, proper undergarments, silver bracelet.
8. Follow the 4 commandments:
Do not dishonor the creator’s intention by cutting the hair.
Do not harm the body with tobacco or other intoxicants.
Do not eat sacrificial meat.
Do not commit adultery.
9. Recite prayers daily
10. Take part in fellowship
Worship together and sing God’s praise.
Cook and eat together.
Serve each other.

Sometimes things just don’t make sense until you hear and see them first hand. I never really understood the whole growing the hair thing, honestly. But now I totally get it. If God meant for hair to grow – let it grow. It seems very symbolic of really turning things over to God. I am not going to stop shaving my legs but I totally get it!

And this is it – the Golden Temple. It is beautiful.  The founder of Sikhism was Guru Nanak whose father wanted to raise him according to strict Hindu beliefs.  However, Guru Nanak rejected the idea of the caste system and preached that all humans were equal. He believed that life was given as an opportunity to get closer to God and that all humans were afforded that same opportunity.

Sikhism is said the be the youngest of the world’s religions. It is only 500 years old. But the Sikhs have reportedly already grown into the world’s fifth largest religious group. The word Sikh means disciple. Guru comes from two words – Gu meaning darkness and Ru meaning light. So a guru helps fellow believers turn darkness into light. It is estimated that there are about 26 million Sikhs in the world.

Guru Nanak was the first Guru and 9 others followed behind him. The last human Guru was Gobind Singh and he named the holy scriptures as the 11th and final guru – the Adi Granth which then became known as the Guru Granth Sahib. There are over 50 places throughout the temple where passages from the holy book are continuously being read. We were told that priests can wait up to 20 years to have their turn at reading scripture at this Temple. We were also told that women can be priests and are able to take part in the readings. Equality reigns.

The temple is an active place of worship and people of all faiths are welcome there. We saw Muslims, Hindus, and even Christians in reverent prayer throughout the temple. We even bowed our own heads in silent meditation when we sat a top the Golden Temple and listened to the prayers. The atmosphere was remarkably reflective and we felt so much a part of the worship ceremony. We weren’t allowed to take pictures of any part inside the actual Golden Temple but it probably really is better if you just imagine a light breeze blowing thru a picture perfect sky, us on our knees with eyes closed with hands in our laps, our hearts beating slowly, prayers humming in the air, and everyone quiet together except for the very young child playing with the donations box. Normal Rockwell would have painted it for sure.

At first I felt a little uncomfortable taking the spot of someone who practiced Sikhism on the floor in front of the priest reading the scripture. But our guide reassured us over and over that people of all beliefs are welcome at the temple not only as visitors but as active participants. And I must say I felt very comfortable there.

I also noticed that many of the worshipers would touch the base of the doorway as they entered the Golden Temple complex and any of the smaller areas inside. So I did that too. I am not sure what it represents but it seemed very respectful and reverent. And people also fell to their knees when they entered the temple. You could tell some of them just could not believe they were actually finally there.

The day was truly magical. Our hearts opened to a faith we were not familiar with and stereotypes of brutes came crashing down. Beneath the warrior persona lives men who are compassionate about humanity and dedicated to their faith.

And, if you go to the Golden Temple during the day, make sure you go back at night. You will not regret it.

Sit on your b.u.t.t. for Life………..

Yesterday I posted about the Walk for Life happening in Delhi on Sunday, February 7th. I am sure some of you pulled out those calendars and marked the date, got your tennis shoes out, rallied friends and neighbors, and probably even went for a quick warm-up lap around the block. Heck, you probably have your pledge sheet completely filled out. (Show off. ) For the rest of us, not so much.

If you are anything like me, this things are great in t.h.e.o.r.y. Signing up is easy – it is a certainly a cause that has affected all of us in one way or the other – and it even sounds like fun.

But what if…
I am tired that day
A child is sick that day
It starts too early
It starts too late
I need to wash my hair
It’s raining
It’s not raining
It’s hot
It’s cold
It’s crowded
The sky really is falling
and on, and on, and on…..

Some of you even thought you were off the hook because the 8,000 mile commute is just a tad too much of a commitment. Nay-sayers.

Well, have I got the solution for you. While some of the less sane more dedicated among us Walk for Life, (there is even talk of some over-achievers people Running for Life – whatever), the rest of us can Sit on Our B.u.t.t.s. for Life.

There is a way to make a difference from that chair you are sitting in right now.

Log on to the payment gateway in the CanSupport website: www.cansupport.org or www.walkforlifeindia.org .

There are no two ways about it. Cancer is awful and we all know just how bad it can get – parents lose children, children lose parents, loved ones lose loved ones. Families suffer. Friends suffer. Strangers suffer. It stinks.

Unfortunately, many, many Cancer patients in India are left completely without any medical, psychological, and family support – they are left to battle in the fight of their lives without any help at all. In a word, they are often abandoned by their family, their friends, and their country. It is devastating to hear the diagnosis of Cancer and it is unfathomable that someone would have to face it alone. But that is just what happens. Families are overwhelmed as much by the cost of cancer treatments as by the stigma associated with the diagnosis. So they simply step back and retreat.

And even though early detection can mean all the difference in survival, most cancers in India are discovered much too late for effective treatment. People here have just not had the opportunity to learn enough about the disease to prevent it and fight it.

So CanSupport steps in and helps where others cannot or simply will not. They educate, they coordinate, and they hold hands and hearts.

So yes, even from that comfy chair, you can make a difference. I do have my tennis shoes on but I am ready to use the keyboard if I trip on my laces standing up. 😉

P.S. And I promise not to bug you about this again – have no fear, my blog is not turning into a Jerry Lewis Telethon – but unless you are buying pashmina scarfs or carpets, a little bit of money goes a long way in India. You truly have the chance here to ease someone’s suffering without sacrificing too much yourself. Thanks for thinking about it!

Walk for life……..

THE WALK FOR LIFE IS in Delhi ON SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 7th

Come WALK and make a difference in someone’s life.

Join CanSupport’s ”WALK FOR LIFE” and

STRIDE against Cancer down Shantipath,

on Sunday, February 7th at 9am.

Register early on the website, www.cansupport.org or

Registration desks will be at ACSA, AES, The British School, WHO, Khan Mkt, The French School, The Am Center and more…  the last week of Jan & first week of Feb

WALK on your own or form a group with family and friends.

RUN ahead of the Walkers with a new running club called “RUNNINGANDLIVING”.

Registration Fees are: Rs.250/- for adults and

Rs.100/- for students with a valid ID.

There is no fee for children below 12 years of age.

MAKE A DIFFERENCE- WALK FOR LIFE!

For more information or to Volunteer please contact:

Catherine Bali

natcatbali@aol.com

All CanSupport Services are free and aimed at the less privileged.


Where’s my pumpkin……….

The Canadian Ambassador recently hosted a Thanksgiving Ball at the Canada House in Delhi. I have not gotten dressed up for a formal affair in a while, so I felt a little like Cinderella. I just needed some helper mice and a fairy godmother. Luckily I had an outfit I could wear.

DSC02480

The night was actually a fund raiser for CanAssist. The meal was authentic with turkey and, dare I say it, gravy. There was also stuffing. Yum. I got to enjoy a real Thanksgiving meal while helping people with cancer – yes, that is a win-win.

DSC02482

If you ever move to Delhi – this is the woman you want to know.
She can tell you where to get your hair done, who to trust with braces, where to effectively donate your
time and energy, and she will tell you about fun things like this Thanksgiving ball.
She is a Delhi Rock Star!

Anypumpkin, the night was great fun. I didn’t stay past midnight because I am not
21 anymore and don’t have that much energy. But it was a blast!
My pumpkin was waiting and took me and my tired feet home.

Save the Date…………

final graphic w tree


AWA

Holiday Mela

Sunday, November 15th
10:00am to 3:30p
at the
American Embassy School
New Delhi
Entrance fee: rs. 200
(children under 13 free)

Over 100 vendors
food court
used book sale
kids activity center

When the stars line up……

Many of you know, I used to own a stationery business (www.AReasonToWrite.com). Moving to India put that on hold (for now). I was (more than) a little sad to think of not being creative – but holy guacamole – I found the paper store to die for. It is called Four Seasons and it is in Jor Bagh. Rohit runs it – he is delightful. He used to live in New Jersey and he misses Dunkin Donuts. What’s not to love! I mean, he sells beautiful paper and he loves doughnuts – we were destined to meet.

Rohit tells me that Oprah’s friend Gail has shopped in his store. (Yes, I mean THAT Oprah.) Maybe I will run into her. He showed me which paper Oprah likes and I swear I almost bought him out of it. You can tell her to contact ME if she would like some more. A little handmade paper blackmail maybe not be that impressive so I will lurk in the shadows hoping to spot that BFF of hers.

So anypaper, here is a small sampling of the handmade papers I bought there…

scan0001

It turns out that the paper is made by handicapped children. Seriously, that is a little gift. Because now when I buy it, I am helping to employ handicapped children – it’s almost charity. How can you argue with that?

The stars are definitely lining up. Invitations anyone?

Her job is to hug…

There is a woman in India whose life’s work it is to hug people – that is it – that is what she does. Simply to hug. Wow. And it is estimated that she has hugged over 30 million people in 30 years. Seriously – Wow. Her name is Mata Amritanandamayi Math and, thankfully, they call her Amma.

amma1

She doesn’t ask for a thing for a hug – and yet, people donate money to her causes willingly. She is said to have donated over 23 million dollars to tsunami relief, one million dollars to Hurricane Katrina relief, and funds so that over 100,000 homes could be built. Dang! (source Wikipedia)

I love hugs too – but, if Mr. W has just mowed the lawn and comes in all sweaty looking for affection – not so much. And I love him – a lot. But ick. But not that Amma, she just hugs, anyone, everyone. God love her!

bee-with-flower1Once a press reporter asked Amma how was it possible for her to embrace each and every one in the same loving way, even if they were diseased or unpleasant. Amma replied, “ When a bee hovers over a garden of varied flowers, what it beholds is not the difference between the flowers, but the honey within them. Similarly Amma sees the same Supreme Self in each and every one.”  (This was quoted from www.Amma.org.)

That is really a beautiful thing. And it would never happen in America. We might have come far enough to elect a black President  – but we are not likely to celebrate someone who just walks around hugging complete strangers. Lock her up – she’s a nut – doesn’t she know I just ironed this shirt – would be our battle cry. She would not stand a chance.

I am looking forward to living in a country that puts a “hugger” on an equal playing field with celebrities. She is famous and people flock to her. This fascinates me and I hope to meet hug her very soon.

(P.S. Thanks Mary P. for enlightening me!)