It’s been a year … definitely.

A year ago today I wrote my first blog post and I spent time saying goodbye and finishing my packing. I remember that day vividly but it seems a world away and I guess in some ways it is. This year, I got to see so much and at times understand so little. I could tell stories for hours. People have asked me since I returned home, how have you changed? A tough question and one that I’m not really sure how to answer yet, I think time will let that answer be known… What I do know for sure is through all the ups and downs of an amazing year, repeatedly, it’s been the people. Varied and textured, supportive and a challenge, it’s the people I think about, reflect on and for whom I pray. I hope that has come through my blog.  The idea that people are more than an idea, a culture, neighbors or enemies but we are all humans breathing the same air, drinking the same water and inhabiting the same earth. We might treat life and each other differently but we are all here whether any one person or group likes that or not … we are all here.

Thank you for traveling with me this year and reading and considering my reflections. I write this not because I want to stop thinking or stop blogging but because it’s time to mark time.  In the upcoming weeks and months I may post some more reflections and pictures, maybe under this blog title maybe another, but for now I turn my focus to a new adventure, the adventure of finding a call.  I leave you with some (not all) of the faces that will never leave me. Many blessings to you!

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Disquieting Similarities

I’ve been having some incredible adventures here in India and I’ve also had some introspective times, reading and reflecting. The shear diversity and difference of experiences here keep me thinking and contrasting life in the United States with life in India. Some of those comparisons have been trite, some leave me baffled, some make me laugh and others simply break my heart.

I often find myself a little lost in the understood hierarchies and patriarchies of the land. And if I am completely honest, I find myself a little mad at times too. Oh the hearts and hurts that people (mostly women but some men too) have shared.

God heal the brokenness in all of us. Grant us redemption and resurrection that we may use what others intended for evil to your good purposes.

It seems that in every unfavorable reality of any given society there are authors, though often few, who are willing to tell their stories. Authors who are willing to lay their souls and even bodies bare to reveal, with dignity and integrity, that which has little of either.

I recently read a book called Joothan: A Dalit’s Life by Omprakash Valmiki.

I recommend it. It is not an uplifting book, it is not an easy book but it is one brave author’s account of his life as a Dalit man. The Dalit people, as they are sometimes called, were previously called untouchables, people considered lower than any other caste and to a certain extent lower than human. It is a recent story, (published in 2003 but recalling a childhood of the 50’s and 60’s and an adulthood beyond) and all the while I was reading it I was reminded of an American book written about the 50’s in America, Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin…

Have you read that one? Another one I recommend and again not because it is easy or uplifting. Horrible historical and current realities repeatedly have echoes in other contexts, cultures and times. The faces and the presentation might be different but the spirit of hate and division holds a disquieting similarity.

Forgive us God for we are not always the people you would have us be.

Ashram

Well actually there are many many Ashrams here. Are you familiar with Ashrams? I mean more than seeing the movie Eat, Pray, Love…? Ashrams are places of spiritual hermitage. It is an Indian and a Hindu tradition. I have visited many of them since I have been here. They’re mostly peaceful, reverent, introspective and respected places.

There is also a Christian Ashram Movement. Mostly connected to the Catholic Church, these Ashrams are Christian, Indian and peaceful, reverent and introspective as well. I just returned from one of them. Shantivanam.

It is a two-bus trip about 6 – 7 hours south of Tiruvannamalai that I managed to make because of my traveling companion Sister Sanjeevani who was returning to her Convent which was across the street.

Shantivanam has Fathers and Brothers who maintain basically the life of a hermit. There are three daily services and much time for quiet.

Even the meals are in

I was the only guest for the 3 days I was there. It was lovely and peaceful yet I am certain I am not called to the life of a hermit … though that wasn’t really in question was it?