Walking through the chaotic, busy, noisy streets, we reached the entrance to Mother Teresa’s orphanage after just a few blocks. Like the Mother House, a few blocks the other direction, there is a sense of peace and serenity in the midst of all of the sounds of the city. Smiling was an important lesson Mother Teresa taught to all she met. It is a simple way to convey the joy and the love of God. And so the sisters, moving about their work, when they caught your eye, smiled, truly seeing you. As we walked into the large room with several rows of cribs and cots I saw a lot of smiling. The room housed the children with mental and physical disabilities. Only a few lay in these beds. Most were in chairs or special seats, sitting on the floor, surrounded by the sisters and the volunteers. The sisters bustled about preparing the meal, ladeling spoonfuls of food into metal bowls. With all the perceived sadness of children facing lives of indescribable difficulty and having been abandoned by their families, in this space was a sense of joy. The joy of being in the presence of these children. Joy at having the opportunity to serve and to bring a moment of peace to these lives.
Off in a corner one little boy stood staring out to the street below. He was dressed in a neat blue sweater and shorts. He stood at the window, hands clasped around the metal bars, swaying slightly to some internal melody, or perhaps it was the song of the honking cars. I knelt beside him and said hello. I was touched by the moment when he looked at me- directly at me, curious. He then looked back out the window. He seemed sad and that was an unusual thing in this place. What was he thinking as he looked down at the people, animals, and cars rushing past each other on the street below? I can’t know, but there was a sense of wistfulness in his face. And so I turned and looked with him. I took in the scene below and tried to imagine what it must seem to him. I prayed that my presence brought some comfort to him, but mainly I absorbed the peacefulness of just looking.
All too quickly I realized that the group was leaving and so I touched his shoulder and moved toward the door. He didn’t seem to notice me leaving. As I come to the end of a day filled with important learning, and meeting people doing extraordinary things for adults and children facing the challenge AIDS, it is this boy that stays in my mind. I came to India imagining that I would be doing for others, and what I found today was a little boy who helped me remember that beauty and the sweetness can be found in the midst of suffering by simply being in another’s presence and looking out a window. We’ve been consciously looking for the face of Christ in India and I found him in this boy and in this place.
I just couldn’t bring myself to leave so I asked a sister if I could help in any way. One child, in a kind of stroller, was unable to control her limbs. One person needed to hold her head still while someone else spooned the food into her mouth. The little girl wasn’t very hungry. She seemed more interested in this strange new face staring at her but I was able to coax her to take a few bites. The sister asked a few questions about our group, smiling her lovely smile. As I left I thanked her for the work she was doing. “Yes” she said, ” and now you will remember us in your prayers.” I smiled and thought, “yes, I will.”
- 01/17 Mariah, participant