Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"I slept and dreamt that life was joy..."

"I slept and dreamt that life was joy. 
I awoke and saw that life was service. 
I acted and behold, service was joy."
 ~ Rabindranath Tagore

If you read these letters regularly, you know that I just spent three weeks volunteering at the leprosy community of Anandwan in central India. I left there just three weeks ago, but the impressions and vibrations are still resonating in me. Basically, I miss my leper and non-leper friends from there, and look forward to seeing them again. I also miss the feeling that I was doing something that mattered. The experience reminded me of when I cared for my Mom over the last six months of her life. There was a simplicity and clarity of purpose with my Mom that I don't typically have in my "normal" life. (You call this normal?!) On the blog I kept during my Mom's illness, I wrote about the unexpected gifts that came along with the pain and drama of the situation. I wrote that it was "a huge, painful, beautiful, mysterious, love-filled gift." (Read the whole post here.) Volunteering with the lepers was like that. Heart-breaking. Heart-expanding. Highly recommended. (Lean towards something that breaks your heart, and let us know how it goes!)

So much love,

The photos below are all from in and around Anandwan. Next newsletter: guru-shopping in Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu. Here's something to try, if it's not too much to ask: look at all these photos with the same intention that I took them. With love. See if it makes a difference.

I don't find all kids equally cute. Really. But look at these two! Especially beautiful.
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One of the gardening projects in Anandwan.
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Jen going for a walk with Neesha, the 10 year-old girl who's blind and severely mentally disabled.
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The leprosy patient is on the left! (Laxmi and Jen.)
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This poor guy has what the doctor says is cancer on one foot. It's too gruesome to show you a photo.
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These girls were part of a group on a day-trip visiting Anandwan.
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After the traditional boring hands-at-the-side portrait, I asked everyone to raise their hands. Much more fun!
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The beautiful and helpful Sabiya, who lives in Anandwan with her husband and son. She runs a small telephone shop.
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Another Laxmi, who everyone agrees is a witch. People come to her for incantations and spells, apparently.
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Strangely photogenic, to me. I've posted a few photos of this blind woman.
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Briana from Australia and one of the grandma leprosy patients.
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The Jolly Green Giant and a cute little grandma. (Jen took this photo.)
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This blind man has been trained to do the the weaving of these tables by feel.
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Lovely kid. She hangs out with the blind girls, but I'm not sure what her story is. She seems to both see and hear.
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There's something touching to me about blind kids posing for a photo that they'll never see.
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All the photos from here on are titled "Love." Plus all the ones before it.
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The crazy frenetic monster deaf child, who is so beautiful. She only looks like this when I'm taking her photo. The rest of the time she's a whirling dervish. 
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All of these girls are deaf.
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This is Jyoti, who I wrote about before, getting henna applied to her hand and lower arm. Henna is typically applied for special occasions like weddings. This was her biggest outing, and she seemed so happy to be out of bed and in the world. We were thrilled by how much she seemed to be "coming to life" with the attention we were giving her. We got her half-sister to come visit her. I wonder how that's working out... 
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It looks like I lined these kids up, but they were just there. I practically ran to take their photo when I saw them. I think they're all fully-functioning children of adults who are leprosy patients or deaf or otherwise compromised. (Is that a reasonable description?)
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This young woman came in from the outside to cook when the eye camp was happening. 
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This Muslim man was at the weekly market.
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I can put this market picture here because I'm a vegetarian, mostly. Neener-neener!
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An interesting Muslim guy at the market.
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(The End)