I held my breath in the State Tax Department today.
The stench ran deep.
It was all I could do to not gasp for air and then scream.
I wanted to scream.
Seriously, I did. I almost did. I almost let it out.
If my Hindi was good enough to scream obscenities - I might have.
Don't judge me. You would too, if you were in my shoes.
Photo Credit:Ashley Harrington
Poverty often stops me in my tracks. Like today, after a morning discussing forgiveness with my team, then some time spent finalizing holiday orders, and a few conversations of counseling, I was forced to spend a few hours in the local government offices in order to finalize our TIN (even though we've completed our RN, TAN, PAN, PIN, IEN and more...but we still need our TIN, ugh). After a long day, I began my trek up the mountain around 3:00 to pick my boys up from school. I was reflecting on my day and had to pull over because I couldn't see through my tears. This happens often. Poverty stops me in my tracks. And now, this poverty I speak of, it doesn't just affect the people down in the slums whose names I don't know, it tortures the friends I've chosen to invest in for over 4 years. Its the friends I've chosen to be close to, seemingly replacing my dear American community who knew me, love me, looked like me, spoke like me.
Photo Credit: Haley George
Poverty of Means
Poverty looks different for everyone. For some of my friends, poverty throws them in the corner of their house, on the floor, on the cold concrete, with no blanket, because they have polio and are considered a curse, even by their own family. For some, poverty is choosing to spend half of their salary each month on liquor because they have an addiction and they have had it since they were 12 and their parents were addicts and their grandparents were addicts. For some, its watching a family member die for some unknown reason because the sickness was considered a spiritual condition and so, the family member was never taken to the hospital for help. My list could go on and then I could put names to these stories and then I would tell you that I don't even use those names, I use "brother" and "sister".
Poverty of Thoughts
The State Department smelled of corruption and injustice today. Every step of the legal process includes a long pause, where the wealthy and privileged official, sitting across the desk, waits for you to offer a bribe. Every step will include more paperwork and more red tape if I don't slide them the cash. They will grant me all my requests and allow my business for the poor to continue forward, if only I make them richer. I grow disgusted and sick to my stomach just thinking of it. These officials live near the same people I do. They rub shoulders with them same poverty I walk by. How can this be?
Photo Credit:Ashley Harrington
Then I look at the injustice in my own life. Tonight, as I was waiting for my lice treatment to take affect, I noticed the price on my new bottle of body wash. Rs. 750/$12.00. That equals over a days wage for my people! Over a week's wage for many here in India! Just yesterday, I had to have this Tea Tree Body Wash because it was from The Body Shop and I was so excited that our new local mall carried The Body Shop products that I used to purchase in the States years ago, so I bought it. I didn't even look at the price tag. I'm so spoiled and I know it. I've been raised in a country where we don't even flinch at $12 luxury body wash.
I can't say that I don't miss the days when I didn't care about these things. I'm not so high and mighty to tell you that I don't sometimes wish I could remove this tension from my life. I miss the life where Starbucks Lattes and the occasional pedicure didn't make me think of the little street kid that comes knocking on my door every morning asking for a piece of bread and a used bottle from my trash that he can use to recycle for a rupee.
Photo Credit: Kayla Beth Anderson
Hope and Joy
A local friend here, who grew up privileged, told me after I had lived in India for 6 months - "Don't worry...you'll get used to it."
If I get used to this. Something is really wrong with me.
I don't mean to make anyone sad or discouraged.
Most every day I'm happy and hopeful.
But my hope doesn't come from what I see in this place. I'm not sure there is hope for this wicked world.
My hope grows from watching lives being transformed and is rooted in the One who has the ability to overcome all poverty and corruption, no matter how deep the stench.