This week I have been truly amazed by two things. First of all, their hospitality. Today Mary and I visited the other centers run by ICID. The first one we visited was a kindergarten. The children were absolutely adorable! The center also was a place where women in the neighborhood could come and learn to sew and tailor their clothes. Everyone was very excited to have us there and even though they could speak very little English they tried very hard to communicate with us. The women teaching at the center were so kind and brought us tea immediately when we got there. They also gave us some food and water and were constantly asking if we wanted anything else. The second center school for women wanting to learn how to sew and it was also a school where young boys and girls from the area could go to learn Hindi and some English. Two of the girls put on a dance for us and then two boys followed them. All the women showed us the clothes they had been working on and they were so proud of their work. They sang us a song and some of them introduced themselves. After we visited the center, we went to the home of one of the staff members from YuvaJyothi. We were able to meet her husband and we got to see their engagement photos (they recently got married). People from the neighborhood kept entering their tiny home and brought us cookies, chips, and cold drinks. We then went to her mother’s house which was only a couple of feet away and she made us tea.
Everyone is so friendly and welcoming it has been truly wonderful.They bring us food and make us tea even though they barely have enough for themselves. It is rare to see such kindness from strangers.
I have also been so amazed by how happy people are here. The second center we went to was located in the slums. It was right between a railroad track and a dumping ground and the smell was unbearable. Almost all of the houses were one or two very tiny rooms. The homes we went into had the bedroom, living room, and kitchen all in one room. Witnessing such extreme poverty was overwhelming but also eye opening. I felt like I was in a movie and it still has not fully hit me that people live in those conditions every day of their lives. But despite having so little, everyone I came in contact with today had permanent smiles on their faces and were so genuinely happy. The woman from YuvaJyothi showed us a picture of her dad and of her brother and told us how they both passed away. But even though she has faced so much loss, she still always has a smile on her face. Despite poverty and so many hardships, these people still love so greatly.
This month in India has taught me that happiness really does not come from money or material goods but rather from spending time with family, friends, and even sometimes complete strangers. Happiness is walking out of my room on my birthday and seeing that Mary and the boys made me a poster and put streamers in front of my door. Happiness is watching the boys dance and seeing pure joy and excitement on their faces because they are doing something they love. Happiness comes in the moments you realize that life truly is beautiful when it is spent with family, friends, and people who love you and that you love back. There are so many reasons to be happy and I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to travel half way around the world to help me realize all the wonderful things in my life.