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Published: August 5th 2007
My last day in India, yet also my first; for on my last day in India, I remembered what I should have never forgotten...
Perhaps I wasn't prepared for him like I had been at other times. Perhaps he caught me off guard. Perhaps he blew the tyre of my racing mind. Perhaps it was the heat. Perhaps it was my emotions running wild hours before I was to board the plane back home. Perhaps I didn't expect to see him in this rich shopping enclave of Delhi... Perhaps it doesn't matter.
Fact is, he threw me further than any baseball. He dropped me flat in my own pie. He left me feeling so ridiculous and shamed that I was bursting at the seams - I felt like I was about to explode in every emotion I had ever felt.
We walked past him on the street, but it wasn't until we stopped to get a cold drink nearby that I found myself staring at him. My eyes were glued to him, my body motionless. If Gordon asked me anything, I did not hear it. If someone stole my bag, I did not notice it. In that moment, I didn't feel the heat, I didn't cough from the pollution. I just stood there...
He lay partially curled up on the thin strip of dirt in the middle of the street. His bare back was arched forward so that his heavy head nearly touched his feet. The skin on his arms and shoulders had peeled off, leaving festering open wounds. The flies lingered like crows around a dead lamb. In his right hand, he clung to a small tin jar which he rattled slowly, slowly, asking for a pitance. The strength to do so had nearly left him.
I could not see his eyes or face. At one stage, he tried to lift himself somewhat, but beyond a couple of inches he slumped back down to the ground. He fell silent for a minute, than began to slowly rattle his tin again, slowly, slowly.
I could hear the coins clinking in my ears; the sound was piercing, shrill, unrelenting. What was he to do with coins? What is a man to do with all the coins in the world if he cannot drag himself off the filthy ground to spend them?
I thought of my sick grandmother at home, of all the things we try to do for her to make her last years more comfortable, less lonely. I looked at the old man - where are his grandchildren? Where is his family? Where is someone to take care of him in his last years, to dress his wounds, to give him love? But I could not see anyone through my tear-filled eyes; only the dry dirt around him and his tin cup, rattling slowly, slowly.
I cried a long time for him; not just physical tears - my soul weeped. I weeped because I know there is enough love to go around, enough for him too, yet he sits alone. We have every material thing we could possibly want in our lives. We can build bridges and towers, great mosques and temples to give thanks to our Gods. Yet we walk past this old man. Some of us will throw a coin, others will just close their eyes. But who will have the courage to lend him a hand, to lift him up off the ground, to give him hope? Such a simple feat; love is priceless, it doesn't cost anything. So why do we give it so stringently?
Give more, I say. To everyone.
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