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Impact India 360
A Connection Without Words

He looked like he was 30 years older than me, but he was about my age.  He weighed half of what I weigh. I sat on his bed next to him, his feet dangling inches from the floor.  We did not speak the same language, and with no one to interpret, words served no value. We just sat together. And in the quiet of the moment I had nothing to do but to imagine his life. The lines on his face and the scars visible on his skinny legs suggested a difficult life, now near it’s end. A lot of pain and suffering.

It felt a bit awkward, to just sit there. I wondered if he felt the same, or was he just glad for some company? I felt useless, yet could not leave. He did not try to speak. He sat still, next to me. At one point I placed my hand on his shoulder and he leaned in a bit, I think. I was surprised at the bones I felt beneath his thin shirt. I wondered how often he feels any human touch. We sat there, my hand on his shoulder, silently in our own thoughts. What were his thoughts? What did he think of this strange white man coming into his room and sitting with him- hand on his shoulder?

In my14 trips to India I have picked up almost none of the language.  But I recalled the word for “name”. I did not know how to phrase the question “what is your name”, so I just said the word for name- mispronounced I am sure. But he got it. A smile broke across his face, he touched his chest with his hand and told me his name, which I cannot pronounce nor will I attempt to spell. I told him my name. And for a moment or two, our eyes met. As has been noted by many, eyes communicate often what words cannot. What happened to me is not easy to describe because it wasn’t really what I thought, but what I experienced-  a deep human connection.

It was actually painful for me. It every way he is just like me. A human being. Same anatomy. Same biological processes going on beneath our skin. And same needs and desires and aspirations. Two men came into the same world as baby boys, born in different countries and into vastly different circumstances, none of that of our own choosing. We had no say in the matter. Our lives unfolded very differently simply because of where we were born.

And here we are. I live in a nice apartment in the States, have a great job, surrounded by family and people who love me. I have so much to do, so much to keep me busy that I am never bored or struggling with a lack of purpose. I never worry about getting help for physical problems or dental issues. I never wonder when I will eat again, or where I will sleep at night. I have plenty of clothes and the ability to get more. I am all set.

This is where we differ greatly. He has none of these provisions and certainties. Alone in his later years, he would be living on the street, homeless if he had not been brought into the Agape Home for the Aged. It’s not much, to be honest. But he has three meals a day, chai tea twice a day, some companions, medical and dental care available on the campus of CEM, which he now calls home. He has young students studying at CEM who drop by for a visit a couple of times a week- and occasionally some Americans who come and spend a week. His teeth are mostly gone, his health appears fragile, and all of his possessions fit into a small drawer. But he is not sick. He is not hungry. He is not abandoned.

That could be me. What do I do with these feelings? Some suggest that comparing my life with his should make me grateful. Perhaps. But then, being grateful is easy- just appreciating how good I have it, and thankful I am not him. That honestly sounds shallow, and self-centered. Being grateful is not enough.

Today, looking into his eyes, experiencing his humanity and his value, has helped me understand a bit more why God has so much to say about caring for the poor. Not once ounce of energy or one dollar I spend is wasteful. Can’t say that about much else.

I am writing this on my mac computer. My I-pad sits nearby. Combined value may be more money that he earned in decades. I do not know what to do with all these thoughts, but God, I am listening.

 Craig Mayes

One Response to “A Connection Without Words”

  • Awesome. I sometimes get stuck wondering why I was chosen to win the “life lottery”. To be born in this country with the blessings and opportunities every american has.