By: Anna

At the beginning of this journey, I experienced many different moments of heartbreak such as having to tell a five year old boy who was covered in mud, shoeless, and malnourished that I could not give him any kind of donation. This particular boy broke my heart because I felt that I had nothing to give him in the moment though I had many things, such as my shoes, that I was taking for granted. The language barrier was so great between us that all I could do was shake my head no. Another moment of heartbreak that I felt in the final hours of New Delhi was seeing the women completely sun-baked sitting on the street holding their hands out for donations. The women just sat there helpless holding their hands up as if it were their jobs. This was the final day in Delhi. Though I was unable to physically give a gift to the people that I say in Delhi, they gave me a gift of realizing how lucky I was to even have shoes, let alone travel to another country. Seeing people living so deep in poverty helped open my eyes to how many great gifts and blessings I have in my life, and heartbreaking moments like this have helped me be able to appreciate the different moments of great beauty on the trip.

As we moved to Corbett National Park, I was scared for what kind of new saddening things I would then be exposed to. When we arrived at Corbett, our resort was the polar opposite of what we were exposed to in Delhi. The resort was one of the most beautiful places in nature that I have ever seen. The river at the national park was clean enough for us to swim in, unlike in Delhi where there were ice bergs made of chemicals in the river. At our second resort stop in Corbett, we were driving up through the winding roads and a sign read ‘welcome to the world of digital detoxification’ and it couldn’t have been any closer to the truth. Being in the land of digital detoxification, the sheer natural beauty was able to help with the feelings of heartbreak that I had experienced; but, I don’t think any amount of natural beauty could help me forget the struggles that you could see in Delhi.

And now Agora, a small farming village in the Himalayas, is far different from any of the other places we have visited thus far on the trip. The love, hard work and kindness that all the people share within the village is contagious. Even after being in the village for an hour, I had already been invited to be with many families, had my hair braided, and a meal prepared for me even without being able to communicate because of the language barrier. Within the different locations that we have visited, Agora is the most special because of the amount of love and beauty in this place. Though Delhi and Corbett each had love and compassion in their own ways, nothing will compare to this small mountain village of Agora.

5 responses to “Narratives Through Place”

  1. Dave's Mom Avatar
    Dave’s Mom

    Oh, Haley…my heart breaks for the souls in Delhi and for your terrible dilemna dealing with it and how it has affected you. As the trip has evolved, your feelings about each place and the people living in those very different circumstances has given you a really eye-opening lesson about over population and the tragedy of it. It is indeed all about place.

  2. voluntarysabbatical Avatar

    Haley, thank you for sharing these feelings. I went to India for the first time when I was carrying Mr. Alter! Your story reminds me of the feelings I had- you are wise to understand your reactions to each of these places- and more than 30 years later I can tell you that your experience of life will be shaped by these early encounters with the unfamiliar. In our complicated world, human suffering and human contentment are both very real- before we encounter it up close in an unfamiliar place we are less truly aware of it but once we are aware of it our connections to our human family become more powerful in shaping our hearts and minds. It was there before we understood it – Myself, I think it’s important to know, to be aware, perhaps to care and to find purpose in what we do in our lives. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Janice Thomas Avatar
    Janice Thomas

    Thank you for telling your story Haley. Your kindness and empathy will motivate you to make changes in our world that help people. Maybe a shoeless child in the US will give you a chance to respond as your heart leads you. God be with you as you continue your amazing journey.

  4. jbyersccs Avatar

    Haley, thank you for your thoughts on the bad and the beautiful of India. The enormity of it is so impressive and memorable. No easy solutions, but Bett Alter is right, the experience of this shapes our own living, or it should.

    1. Haley Wilbanks Avatar
      Haley Wilbanks

      Thank you all! This post was written entirely by Anna Flynn – my mistake for forgetting to include her name the first time. These are her thoughts and words and I will pass your comments along!

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