The scorching sun rays burnt my back as the coordinator narrated the history of the organization. I squinted my eyes to see a young boy with a tray with some glasses of water for us. He was six feet and very lean for his height. His pale complexion and a bright smile was a stark contrast to what the world would want of him and what he actually was as a person.
He could see us in those abnormally bright colors but he could not make sense of what we blabbered. He could smile like us but could not verbalize like we did. He was not lost of words; he lacked the gift of speech.
I walked inside with him to the back of the class towards his bag. He drew out a notebook and a pen. He wrote one word ‘Olympics’ and with a big smile drew an image of himself flying to the Olympics. I could not believe my eyes as there was nothing that my deaf ears were accustomed to hear usually, hence, I called the class teacher. She confirmed the news and told me that he was indeed going to the Olympics next year to represent India in ‘Throw Ball’.
I had tears and a glint of shame in my eyes when I thought of all those trivial issues which shook my life. I felt so small in front of the guy who was 16 and sky rocketing like anything in life with almost nothing versus me who has all the comfort in life except for the willingness to give up anything that was remotely uncomforting.
A tap on my shoulder jolted me back to the dingy classroom to a set of twinkling eyes. A young girl held out her hand to me. I grasped her hand and she tightened the grip. There was love and there was a sense of mutual admiration. I for one looked at the pale frail girl who was suffering from Down syndrome. She wore a humongous smile and seemed very keen to show me her school notebooks. She on the other hand looked at me with wonderment for reasons unknown to me. Maybe she liked my hair.
We had our own conversation sans any words. We exchanged some smiles and talked nonverbally. The bond was special and nothing like anything I had ever experience before. I could see a sparkle in her eyes. I wanted to say so much more and she wanted to convey so much. She of course got distracted and ran to her friends. I was left sitting there with a feeling of emptiness.
I gathered myself again, this time with some tears in my eyes. I wanted to run out of that school and cry my heart out. I wanted to make sense of what I was seeing. Why was God so kind to me and not to them? Maybe he had his own reasons? Maybe they were more gifted than I was?
Two years into the non-profit sector and visiting hundreds of houses of the less fortunate hadn’t made me emotionally immune from such things and this one thing which always disturbs me. I think my biggest weakness is my lack of emotional stability and this visit struck me right at that point.
I could see children of all ages struggling to even tie their laces and even then dreaming to achieve so much in life. People like me are so ungrateful for everything we have, we always have something less. We crib for such paltry issues that it aggravated me a bit.
Sunlight filtered through the half closed door of the classroom next to where I stood. I peeked inside to see a young boy not more than 8 with a huge pair of Newton glasses sitting on a chair with a desk almost engulfing him. He was struggling to write something in his notebook. I stepped inside to watch in amazement at how hard he was trying to write something on that notebook he had in front of him.
My eyes welled up a bit as I took out my phone to take a picture. God was making me realize how fortunate I was with every step that I took inside that humble school. I could see my classmates trying to interact with the children there all with their own special gifts. They made diyas, they made gift boxes and they did everything that we can’t even imagine to do. Who was special to God then? Me? I don’t think so.
These kids were like those droplets of water of the first rain which disturb the ever placid ocean in a fraction of a second. I am that ocean. They blew me away with their simplicity and their inherent drive to achieve something in life. I had a new found respect for my life and everything that I possess.
I have seen millions of poor and I have donated a lot of money. But what can you do for someone as special as them? Money does not help. Sympathy does not help. What works then? Time does. They want time. They want some help. The most convoluted problems in life have very simple solutions. We need to understand them and we need to implement them. Talking about these issues only does 1% of the work.
What lies ahead of us is a very difficult terrain. Almost 10% of the entire human race needs some special help. They are not out there asking for help. We need to be a little more considerate and a little more selfless. We need to come out of the self sufficiency mode. We just need to extend our hand. The other side is already standing with arms wide open.
What do you choose?
Let me know 🙂
<Photo credit: Shashan Pande>