Beauty in the Slums
I never believed in love at first sight. How can you love someone when you don’t really know them? How can you assume someone’s heart, intentions and truth based off of a smile or greeting? People would tell me stories of locking eyes with someone and knowing it was love; I would just nod and laugh because haha yeah right? Love is something that needs to be developed and learned. You need to truly see someone’s heart to love it, right?
India showed me I was so wrong.
I had heard India would be dirty and much, much different that what I was used too. But no amount of books or articles could inform me of how I would be effected.
India is lively. The streets are hectic and people are everywhere. There were even a few lucky men riding elephants as their mode of transportation. The women all wore beautiful, bright saris and many had the bindis on their head (which I became very attached too and miss wearing them so much!!). The food is all exciting and flavorful. All decorations are intricate and intentional. In every place you look you see life. Despite the amount of diversity in the culture and numbers of people, everyone lives together in harmony. Different religious churches side by side coexisting; people honking and honking then moving on peacefully. It seems as if India is obnoxious from the outside hustle and bustle but if you look closely it is quite peaceful. There are so many things to love about India but what I love most is the people.
I traveled to India with an organization called Effect.org. Our purpose in this journey would be to understand the struggles of the lower income families of the slums and to see how a lack of education effects their lives. Our goal was to create and improve the Effect International Schools to reach out and make them accessible to these people.
In my visit I met families living in 5 story buildings to families living under a small rag. No matter who I met they all had a giving, happy, and loving spirit in common. One little boy that our group met in the slums had a disability. Because he was different he was unable to go to school, only disabling his situation more. He couldn’t go to school because kids would bully him to a point where it is not safe for him to be there. Despite him only being shown anger because of his situation, he and his family only reciprocated with love. At the sight of a group of people who were going to love him no matter what, he literally melted in one of the girl’s arms. It was so heart-wrenching and moving to know how much he craved love and to see him get a taste of appreciation and love in return showed exactly the reason these people are so special. They expect nothing but appreciate everything. Despite all his struggles, he and his family continue to hope and love.
In the slums families walk in sewage, sleep under rags and live equally with the animals they raise. In spite of all odds, each and every struggle, they continue to smile. The parents have so much hope for their children’s future and pride for their home. Kids respect you as if you are their own parents and love you as their own friend. Everyone is eager to hold hands, give encouragement, hugs, and talk with you. One mom living in the slums opened her house up to show us. We asked her if she could change anything about her situation what she would fix. All she could respond was her truth– “we are HAPPY and that is really all that matters.” It was amazing to see the people with the least of things to be the happiest of all. I felt so inspired and happy by the love of the families yet devastated at the fact that these most beautiful people are the ones struggling the most.
When greeted by the children with big eyes filled with hope and truth, when holding the hand or hugging a child who has been longing for love, when seeing the happiness shine through in the smiles despite all odds, I knew – this was love at first sight. All it took was one week in New Delhi, India to show me that it is more than possible but completely effortless to fall in love with people as loving as this with just one glance.
In just one week my life was completely flipped upside down. I was shown love by people who do not even know me. I was taken into homes and offered food and a place to sit by people who had nothing. Shown how thankful I should be to have all that I do yet realized how often I take it for granted. Shown that it doesn’t take material or things to make us happy but that happiness is found within. The people of India taught me this and so much more with their open- arms, hugs, and smiles. Because of this and because of all India as taught me, there will forever be a special place in my heart for India and the people it raised.