While walking the streets of Kolkata with my American boyfriend I mentioned once, ‘When you live with a problem it ceases to be one. I have seen people sleeping on the sidewalks since I was born, I don’t notice them anymore!’ On retrospect, it was such an insensitive comment to make. Sean stopped walking and turned around to face me. ‘I don’t ever want you to get used to people sleeping on the sidewalk. If you get used to it, how will you strive to change it and make it better?’ I knew then, this is the man I want to spend my life with.
I have not done anything to change the world in a major scale. I support my husband’s endeavor to make a difference in the world. I like to think, I am helping by keeping his world together while he does his job. But I also like to think I am doing my part by TRYING to raise two little humans to be worthy citizens of the world. I hope to instill compassion, acceptance, love and respect for others in them so when they grow up and create little ones of their own they pass along these values in a chain reaction. Hopefully one day we WILL achieve social justice for all, we WILL see an end to rape, abuse, hate killings, violence. The cynical you will call me naive, I call myself a dreamer!
“You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one.”
Simply couldn’t resist it, you know me!
Of course, the task isn’t easy. I get discouraged when I see meanness in them towards each other. They are rude sometimes, ill-mannered, whiny and oh, so mean. Those are the moments I truly panic. I wonder what I am doing wrong, is it nature or nurture? I plan what to say to them so they change. I search the library for meaningful books, I read parenting books to deal with situations, I lecture too much and they tune me out. Yet, my heart soars when one writes he is going to teach children in poor countries when he grows up and will buy food for them with whatever money he has and the other easily gives ALL her toys to an AIDS hospice in India at five years of age when we move from Delhi to USA. When my father takes my daughter out to buy a special dress for her birthday, she insists a new dress be bought for her little friend, whose mother cooks for my parents. In Kolkata, when a little child begs for money, both of them take her to a nearby sweet shop and have me buy the sweet of her choice. Then the older one laments they gave her unhealthy food instead of something healthy like fruit. They listen to stories of people in vulnerable conditions after the earthquake in Haiti from their dad and give all their money from their lemonade stand to be used for children in need.
I worry that my children, living their insulated, suburban life will not realize there is a whole big world out there where many children, just like them, are going to bed hungry. When I say we won’t buy any video games but read books and play outside, my then six-year-old son says, “That’s OK, I have so many toys, many children don’t!” When middle schoolers use the word ‘gay’ derogatorily, my then sixth grader stands up to say, “Don’t say that, being gay is not bad or good, it is just a way of life!” And then they fight over something trivial like a piece of candy, or torment each other till I am ready to bang my head against the wall.
Our trips to India keep them grounded to reality. They see the glittering malls, the gated communities then they see people sleeping on side walks with their families. ‘Why don’t they have a house? We want to help when we grow up! How can we help?’ I hope they grow up to feel people’s pain and as Sean said to me all those years ago, hope they never get used to the sleeping families on the side walks. Well, that is the HOPE. I am building a cathedral, so time will tell!