I truly can't believe this is my last night in India (unless you count waiting around in an airport until 2 AM - I don't). The past three weeks have been full of unforgettable experiences, yet they've flown by so quickly I could hardly catch my breath. I celebrated my twentieth birthday (at the Taj Mahal, no less!), traveled to a country & continent that I've never visited before, walked & talked & sang with leprosy patients, taught a bit of English, learned a bit of Tamil, & fell absolutely head over heels in love with the children of Rising Star Outreach.
I could write thousands of blog posts about my experiences here & never tell them all; each day has held so many new stories. There are many more posts to come, but as I reach the beginning of the end, I feel like a bit of a wrap up is necessary. And yes, this is only the beginning of the end - I still have roughly 36 hours of travel ahead of me.
I have learned so much in these three short weeks - about the world, about children, about poverty, about airports, about mangoes, about leprosy, about bugs, about frogs, about alternative toilet designs, & about myself. The children here truly have the ability to love unconditionally - they can even forgive you for refusing to give them crayons, which is, of course, a huge deal when you're 6. Before they even know your name, they reach up & beg for hugs. They have so little but give so much. We are forever finding little love notes & trinkets by our door. How could I keep my heart from melting with their warmth?
While I've been in India, I've learned a lot about perspective. True beauty isn't skin deep, it comes from the heart. Some of the most beautiful smiles I've ever seen have been full of rotten teeth & sunken gums. You can be grateful for the smallest things; a piece of gum or a simple smile delivers such joy to those who are grateful for even the smallest sign of love.
I guess what I'm trying to say is this: seeing more of the world has greatly changed the way I look at my world. I have been so incredibly blessed throughout my life - I have been surrounded by comfort & people who love me. I have a mommy who takes care of my hurts & a daddy that makes sure I have a roof (not made of palm leaves) over my head & food (which I can pronounce the names of) on the table.
Perhaps most importantly, I have gained a powerful testimony of my Father in Heaven's love for His children. One wise man in one of the hospitals we visited told me a very true thing, "I will pray to my god for you - but we all pray to the same god. It doesn't matter what we call Him, He answers all the same." I know this is true. I have felt the power of prayers to gods I don't know in languages I don't understand. Faith is faith, no matter who or where you are. Hope is a treasure. Love is powerful & universal.
And the best thing about love? You just can't give it away with out even more coming back at you.
There were some pretty embarrassing grammar flubs in this post - I wrote it around 2 am Chennai time. Please excuse.