Thoughts from India
I just returned from India this weekend, and while my jet-lagged brain is struggling to form coherent thoughts, I wanted to share some highlights.
I loved the overall experience. The people we met were warm and interesting, the food was amazing, and our itinerary included many powerful experiences. Much of what I learned is more personal than personal finance, but I’ll try to share the most relevant bits here.
I had the privilege of meeting a child we sponsor, and his mother. I didn’t know his mother was coming, or that she was his mother at first. She spoke a little English and was translating for us. Since they send translators from the children’s homes, I thought she was a caretaker there. She was blatantly mothering him throughout the meeting, and at some point I asked if she was his mother. When she said yes, the meeting suddenly became even more emotional. As a mom, I can’t imagine how difficult it would be find yourself unable to provide your child’s basic needs. She kept saying “very thank you” over and over. Rather than feeling like I’m so great for helping out this family, I felt very humbled. I don’t deserve the many blessings and advantages that allow me to help them. And although I don’t know the exact circumstances of their family, it’s safe to assume that forces outside of their control have contributed to their financial situation.
I was able to tell women that they are valuable in God’s sight. This is not a predominant message in many of their homes. We spoke to groups of 100-250 women, mostly from rural villages. We also got to hear a few of the women’s testimonies. Some recounted tragic stories, but the overall theme was one of overcoming through faith.
Since becoming a mother, I’ve been trying to imagine a more global and historical perspective on marriage and motherhood than what I’m immersed in here in suburban America. While we can barely keep up with ever-changing car seat laws, Indians pile a family of five onto a small motor scooter and zoom off into traffic that looks like anarchy to the Western eye. I adhere to my children’s nap time almost religiously, but saw Indian kids sleeping on said scooters, and floors or tables anywhere. The heat must help—I could have passed out on the floor, too! Contemplating the arranged marriage tradition and hearing the stories of traveling pastor’s wives also shed light on how cultural my notion of marriage is.
I didn’t miss much from home, except maybe toilet paper in public restrooms and being able to drink tap water. And there were a couple days that our schedule didn’t allow for a decent dose of after lunch caffeine. Turns out it’s really hard to stay awake while sitting for 10 hours in 95 degree heat! But I’ve returned with little taste for American food, and tried to recreate an Indian dish last night. I also didn’t miss Facebook, texting, or email. I’m sure the short-lived nature of the trip made it easier to get on without these. Of course, I missed my family and friends, though I never got homesick. I was able to call my family three times, including on my son’s birthday.
I also noticed that things didn’t have to be perfect. India is extremely diverse so I don’t want to over-generalize, but in the circles we were with, people didn’t seem to mind if the music wasn’t perfect, if the conference got off schedule, or if their clothes and sandals match or fit perfectly, for example. I’m sure a lot of this arises out of not having the option for perfection. They are used to the electricity going out regularly for brief periods (which is rough when your only cooling comes from ceiling fans). They are used to their kids wearing too small clothes we wouldn’t think of putting our children in, because we don’t have to. It struck me that I spend too much time trying to make my living room look perfect or my teachings for India perfect, when no one but me even cares. Striving to match our lives with the sleek, immaculate images of edited advertisements only wastes time and frustrates us as we fail to comply with impossible standards. I hope to take our principle that Life is Not About Your Preferences to a new level with this insight.
We were completely pampered. I don’t think I opened a car door or poured a cup of coffee for myself while there. We experienced a much more service-oriented culture, which was sometimes hard for us self-reliant American to take. However, I also feel pretty triumphant for having flown on 13 planes in 15 days, survived two weeks away from my family, conquered the squatty potty, feasted on spicy foreign cuisine without digestive distress, and taught large groups through a translator in significant heat & humidity. Venturing outside my comfort zone built my faith and confidence, and I believe this experience has increased my flexibility and usefulness in many ways.
Seeing real poverty has only increased my desire to pretend to be poor, (tongue-in-cheek a la Proverbs 13:7) so that I can have more to share with the truly poor. And it’s given me new vantage points on living with contentment, defining necessity, and the depths of human creativity for making do, or doing without.
What have you learned from traveling? How do you strive for perfection in unnecessary ways?
18 Responses to “Thoughts from India”
Trackbacks / Pingbacks
- September 1, 2015 -
- September 22, 2015 -
- October 12, 2015 -
- December 6, 2015 -
- February 22, 2016 -
- April 25, 2016 -
Sounds like an awesome trip, and so fun to see the kid you sponsor. I met my wife on a mission trip to Juarez (we had met before but didn’t really start talking until we were on the trip). We went to a children’s home and she got to see Edgar, who she sponsored. It was so fun for her to get to spend time with him and see him in person.
I’ve had a number of friends go to India on mission trips and they all came back saying it was a great experience. Looking forward to reading more about your trip and how you apply lessons learned to your life here!
That’s such a cool story of meeting your wife on a missions trip!
My husband visited the child two years ago and also found it a very powerful experience.
I’m so glad you were able to go on the trip!!
Great point about the perfection. When everyone around you is dressed to the nines – guess what you will be tempted to be?
Right now, we are living a temporary corporate housing, having just moved for my husband’s job. They put us in downtown – in an apartment that costs way more money per month than we’d ever spend on rent. We have a dog, so I have to walk him a few times a day. Even though I currently work from home and can do that in sweats, every time I pass these well-dressed, working women, I’ll ask myself “wonder where she got that outfit?” or “wonder how much that dress costs?” Its so easy to get wrapped up in the norm of your surroundings. You want to be the norm – that’s human nature. But when the norm is less “perfect”- how freeing that is! Think about going off to college – some kids dress up for class and some come in PJs. It’s anything goes. It allows you to find yourself. You figure out what is important to you. For you and I, that really isn’t clothes 🙂
I completely enjoyed the “things don’t have to be perfect” ethos while there. I’d feel the same way in your situation even though I have a whole philosophy of not getting wrapped up in fashion. It’s a tough tendency to fight. Luckily most of my friends consider jeans dressing up!
I love that you got to meet your sponsored child. I hope that it ends up making your prayers for him and his mom all the more fervent and real.
Sounds like a great trip, and one where you learned a lot!
Meeting them was truly an awesome experience. I do find it much more real to pray for them now.
Really enjoyed hearing your thoughts! Thanks for sharing! Sounds like a great experience.
That new perspective (or at least refreshed perspective) is invaluable. Agree 100% with your thoughts regarding marriage, motherhood and other cultural differences. It’s easy for us to assume what we’re doing is right – but is it? I remember thinking arranged marriages were odd. Maybe we’re odd! Wouldn’t be the first thing we screwed up!
I think both cultures have a lot to offer, as well as some values I don’t agree with. But it is hard to see outside of what we’re used to.
I looved this.. traveling to India has been on my heart for years! I read an article from pickinguppennies.net and it led me here, and i am SO glad it did.
I work for Whitney Hansen Coaching and am often reading personal finance articles, but so often, people focus too much on money and forget where true wealth. It seems as though God is working through you to do amazing things. Keep it up!
I’m glad you found us, too! And I hope you can make it to India someday.
Kalie, I really enjoyed reading about your experience in India. Last year, I spent four months there with IGL and got to be a part of a lot of WWM conferences. The hard won battles, lessons I learned, and people I grew to love under the Indian sun have dramatically changed the way I live my life. I’m glad to hear that it is a special and life changing place to other people, as well.
Wow, four months there would be quite a different experience! That’s great it changed you so much.