During my last day in south Asia this past summer, I decided that there was a very special woman I wanted to visit. Everyday as I passed through the train station to go to my placement, I always saw an elderly woman (“Dadi,” translated directly means “grandma”). Every day, this Dadi was at her same spot in the morning, throughout the whole day, and at the end of the day when I would return from my placement, sitting on the floor with a cloth laid out in front of her with eight to ten lemons set out. Every time I passed her in the train station, I wanted to stop by and interact with her, but I always happened to be in a rush or with others from my team. I never had stopped by before and I was determined to stop by and sit with her, knowing today was my last chance.
As I walked to the train station alone that afternoon, I was filled with a child like excitement to finally be able to meet the “Lemon Dadi” that I had seen everyday during my time here. Once I had approached her, I sat down and pointed to a lemon asking, “How much?” I wasn’t sure how much she said one lemon was. Before I had even come up to her, I really wanted to give her some more money than what would be asked for because I saw her sitting here at the train station everyday with a little less than a dozen of lemons, which I had never seen anyone buy. After she explained to me that one lemon was three rupees ($1 is equivalent to about 65 rupees), I began to do the math in my head. Even if she sold all ten of the lemons she had each day, that’s less than thirty rupees, which is equal to half a dollar. I realized that even when this Dadi works all day to sell these lemons, she still lives in poverty.
I started to wonder about her story…does she have a husband? Does she have children or grandchildren she is responsible for and needs to take care of? Does she ever have enough to eat? I wanted to bring her back home with me. I wanted to bring her home and take care of her like she was my Dadi. But the reality is, of course I couldn’t do that. But I had to do something, I couldn’t just buy a lemon and carry on with my day. I wanted her to know that someone cared for her and really did see her; more importantly, I wanted her to know that there is a God that loves her and cares for her…and I was determined to share that with her.
Even though I knew the rough cost, I put four times the amount in her hand, closed her hand, and held it for a second as I smiled and looked into her eyes. The lemon Dadi looked at me with mouth open and bug eyes, not really sure what was going on and probably thinking I was crazy. She smiled sweetly and began speaking to me, to which I proceeded to say about four or five times in Bengali, “I don’t speak Bengali.” In response she continued to speak to me and I just sat there for a while shaking my head, smiling, and looking into her eyes. After some time had passed, I got up and walked away, waving good bye.
As I continued to walk through the community I lived in during my summer, I just couldn’t get this Dadi out of my head. I decided to go back and sit with her for a little, so I decided to buy her a cold bottle of clean water. I wanted to buy her something that could be helpful for her. Here, much of the water is not safe and as clean as it should be, so many of the people, especially those who spend most of their time in public places, drink the water available through the water fountains, like the ones at the train station that I’ve seen her drink from. As part of the instructions that we were given at the beginning of the Trek, one of them was to not drink from those water fountains because you really had no idea how clean it was or where it was coming from. So why was it that I was instructed to not drink from this source of water, but this was where the lemon Dadi drank from during a majority of her day? This conflicting question led me to buy her a bottle of water because even though I cannot control the water she has drank in the past or will continue to drink, I wanted to be able to share love with her through some clean water at that moment. And if it was the Lord’s will to express His love for her through me, I wanted her to experience it.
So I made my way back to where she was sitting and crouched down when I got to her and extended the water bottle to her with a smile.She looked at me with a sweet, loving smile as she accepted the water bottle, but I could tell was confused. The Dadi probably thought I was crazy! So because of my lack of language skills, I decided to just be. I remained crouched down with her for some time, holding her hand, looking into her eyes, and smiling. After a minute or so, I realized it was time for me to head back to the place we called home to pack up because it was our last day in country. So I got up and walked away, waving as I did, knowing that I had seen Jesus in her and felt the presence of God in that interaction, and also leaving a part of my heart at that train station.
This interaction for me captivated my whole summer in a moment. If I had seen this same Dadi, in the same spot, at the same time before I came on the Trek, I probably would still have felt heartbroken, but never would have acted. But after being there for over a month and living among those who are the least of the least, the Lord really changed and softened my heart and taught me what it means to share His love in many ways other than through words. For me, what it meant to show love and to let this elderly woman know that I saw her and her life mattered was by buying a lemon from her and offering her a cold bottle of clean water. God has taught me the importance of really just being present in people’s lives. He has taught me the power of my presence is just as important, if not more important than my words. I could say as much as I want about God, but I really have to live it out for people to understand what I really mean. As I continue to transition back home, He continues to teach me to be present in the lives of my friends, especially those who don’t know Him so I can point them to Him through my actions, choices, and lifestyle.
During my summer, I had the privilege and honor to be with some of those who are seen as the least of the least in India, and even in the world. I learned how interacting with the poor can look different depending on the culture, gender, and age, but showing love is the ultimate invitation. That’s the invitation that I’ve received from the Lord and want to respond to as I continue to transition back home through my lifestyle, occupation, decisions, and I also extend that to you.
So thank you, host city, for allowing the Lord to show and teach me what it means to love the unloved, care for the uncared for, and touch the untouched during my six weeks during this past summer. I’ve fallen in love with this city and hope to return. Until then, praying for this city and that the Lord continues to move!
For more posts like the one above regarding my time this summer, go to: http://globalurbantrek.intervarsity.org/blog/2016/south-asia
*This purpose of this post is not to give a summary or explanation of my summer. It also does not embody a majority of what I experienced this summer. If you would like to know more, please do ask me and I would love to share more about my time in south Asia this summer with you!