We’re lounging in a swanky hotel restaurant in the Delhi airport, trying to wave down a waiter who can give us the WiFi password. Mike has chased after wireless internet on this trip with a voraciousness that Ishmael might feel a need to document, and his dedication has led us to this exceedingly comfortable room, overlooking the lights of the city, drinking $4 Diet Cokes.
It’s a five-or-six hour layover here in Delhi after our first flight from Patna, where we’ve been staying the past few days. Patna is the capital and largest city of Bihar, the poorest state in India. We stayed for barely 48 hours, but that was more than long enough to make an impression. Barely a quarter-mile from the airport, it was obvious that we’d left the comfort and safety of Delhi and Hyderabad. We were in a world of oxcarts and human refuse, with people squatting naked in the streets, in an area considered the most prosperous in the state.
The men who work here have a depth of dedication that levels me. Just last night, we met Jabbu, who gets up at 3 AM every morning to make soy milk for the local children. Once the process is done, he loads all of it onto a bicycle and pedals twelve miles to a nearby slum, the first of three villages he’ll hit over the course of the morning. He must travel fifty miles every day, but when we expressed our shock and admiration at his efforts, he answered with only a noncommittal shrug. Well, everyone does their part, he seemed to say.
We met with a pastor and his wife who had lost a young son in February. They had travelled to rural Bihar to minister to the unchurched communities there, and a few months later their son had taken sick and died. “We don’t consider it a sacrifice,” said the mother. “We don’t. After all, God gave his son for us.” I couldn’t even grasp the meaning in their words. My chest didn’t seem big enough to hold the pain.
On our second or third morning here, we were sitting out in the balcony of our hotel room, sipping coffee and enjoying a gentle breeze drifting in from the streets, when Andy leaned over to me.
“We are so spoiled,” he said.
“Why do you say that?” I asked.
He shook his head. “Just… everything.”
He’s right, of course (don’t tell him I said so). But I’ve been on mission trips before. I know what happens now.
I’ll get back home and the world I live in will seem unbelievably wasteful. Every conversation I listen to will seem impossibly petty. The world I live in incredibly small.
And then… I’ll forget. The need and the pain, the faces and the eyes – all of that will drift away. Slowly, at first, but then faster and faster and faster and faster and suddenly, my life will stop seeming a strange, extravagant thing and will just become my life.
I don’t want to lose it, though, not this time. If I can just take a little bit of it, some little shard to cling to, that forces me to live my life just a tiny bit differently. One pair of searching eyes, one forlorn smile, the shaking hands of one beggar, just one thing.
That’s all I ask. That’d be enough.