It seems that no one slept well last night. We were all anxious about the first day at our volunteer placements. I was assigned to Mother Theresa's Home for the Destitute and Dying. I can assure you that I had my reservations when I learned of my assignment. My inital reaction was, truthfully, repulsion. I wanted nothing to do with it, with surrounding myself with pain and suffering. Ever so briefly the thought of not coming at all crossed my mind.
But I reframed it for myself, reminding myself that I could walk away from the experience, that it is not my permenant reality, and that somewhere I had the strength to do the work.
I have been kindly disabused of my preconcieved notions. The residents at Mother Theresa's are clearly destitute and they suffer from disabilities, mostly mental although there are some significant physical deformities. But they are cared for and they have meals and their space is clean. And they do not appear to be in obvious pain, although I imagine that there is suffering. These factors seem to put them in a better place than many I see on the streets and so sitting with them is easier than i imagined.
And sitting with them is what I did today. I held their hands, tracing the henna lines that had been made there last week. I placed bindis on their foreheads, put pigtails in one woman's hair, painted their fingernails, admired their bracelets. They smiled broadly, met my eyes, held my hands in return. Simple gestures of human contact are what I have to offer and what they seem to crave.
Now that I know what is being asked of me and what tomorrow holds, I can feel that a weight has been lifted. I think the same holds true for the rest of the group. Sleep might finally come to all of us.
Oh! And I saw a painted elephant walking down the freeway today!!! Right beside the rickshaws and rusted bicycles and crazy Delhi drivers!!! An elephant!!! Painted face and all!