I hope summer has not turned all of you into melted popsicles because I certainly feel like one right now. No, I take it back, I feel like a popsicle that has gotten so hot it instantaneously evaporated. It’s been so hot and humid that we usually get up at 4:30 to start our work day by 6:00 to beat the sun. It is so hot that you can towel off after a cold shower and still be soaking wet from sweat. It is so hot that my team has resorted to chanting the mantra “I feel cold. It’s cold outside. I think it might snow” in the hopes that mind might overcome matter. We must all be a bunch of wusses though because our hosts here in Hetauda walk around in full-length leggings/kurtas and drink hot tea multiple times per day.
The extreme heat is tempered by even more extreme storms of lightning, thunder and rain. The lightning is so wide and bright that your retinas get temporarily bleached white with each flash. It is almost as though the Almighty is sporadically snapping your picture when you weren’t expecting it. When the rain comes it feels like literal floodgates have been opened thousands of feet in the air and dense, swollen drops of water pummel your face, head, hands and back. The locals stay indoors or watch from a covered balcony, but we prefer to run and jump in the rain. Within seconds you look as though you just went swimming and, in fact, I can recall many occasions when I felt significantly dryer when swimming than I do standing in Nepali monsoon rains.
Last I wrote, we were experiencing some housing complications and, unfortunately those will probably last for another week. We are all still missing Raksha and, most especially, our beloved girls. We have been able to visit very briefly once in the past week, but apart from that we have been kept too far away to see them very often. In light of the craziness we adopted some outreaches a little earlier than expected and, on Thursday, we ended up at this beautiful little sanctuary called The Divine Home.
The Divine Home could not have been more aptly named. I did not know this until we arrived, but this place is, essentially, a retirement home. In many Asian cultures it is an honor to be the child who cares for your aging parents, so there are far fewer elderly homes here, but there is still a fairly significant population that are without children to care for them. As soon as I saw the minute, white-haired ladies and the small stooped old men, I knew I had walked straight into heaven! Old people are my favorite people in the world! On top of everything the place is run by a 78-year-old angel (whom we all lovingly refer to as Grandpa), who takes such good care of us that it seems far less like being here as a service project, but that we are visiting an old friend (literally and metaphorically).
We have been working hard on projects here, laying the foundation for a coffee shop, painting another house for our dijus (older sisters) and dhais (older brothers), and cleaning out their water fountain. I’m incredibly proud to say that I’ve already accrued a few battle scars from wheelbarrowing and shoveling. In exchange for work we do, Grandpa gives us a place to stay, amazing food fresh from his farm, and endless love and affection. I sincerely think we are getting the better end of the deal! He is so attentive that when we travelled to Chitwan this weekend he hired a driver for us who acted as a personal guide around Chitwan. Whatta guy!
I think my favorite thing about Divine Home is how healing it is. You come here bearing whatever burdens are yours to carry and then suddenly…they seem to vanish. Maybe they don’t disappear entirely, but there is an intangible something here that clarifies them. Peeling away the extraneous is no longer the struggle that it often is in western culture, but just simply happens as naturally as breathing. Grandpa has matter-of-factly taught us when to wake up, when to rest, when to eat, what to eat, and how to work in the wise, loving, straightforward way that only grandpas seem to know how to do. I cherish our early-morning walks with Grandpa through the woods as we inhale the fresh, relatively cool morning air, and with eyes still struggling to wake up, watch the sunrise as we listen to him dole out wise sayings. It is wonderful!
It was on Monday morning that I was blessed to share a particularly poignant conversation with Grandpa. We talked about everything from gun control, to education, to familial expectations. It is difficult to describe what I was feeling, but I think the best word for it was ‘home’. I’ve felt that way since the moment I arrived here and that conversation with Grandpa was simply a continuation of that. How interesting it is that, at 4:30 a.m. walking through an entirely foreign tropical jungle with an old Nepali man who I had met only days earlier, discussing politics, education, and culture with which I was generally unfamiliar, I felt the sensation of ‘home’. Perhaps the old saying “home is where the heart is” continues to ring true. I am tempted to make a slight change to that phrase though – “home is where heart is”. Divine Home, Raksha, and all other places in which we’ve had the blessing to serve have been full of heart – remarkably good people striving with every ounce of their strength to spread love, education and service. It really, truly, does not matter where you come from or what you do in order for you to love someone. Can I say that again in a different way? It does not matter where someone comes from or what they do, love is a universal connection. I have interacted with and learned to love people with whom I can only communicate a couple words, but by serving them and serving with them we have learned to love each other. I firmly believe that there is something deep within all of us that not only wants to serve, but needs to serve for this reason – we need to have people to love so deeply and profoundly and by doing so we are reminded of who we are and, essentially, come “home”. Grandpa, in all his wisdom, once said that, no matter what, good always wins out in the end, and that a good person is a light that floods out the darkness. Goodness knows that life is hard for everyone on planet earth, but you have more power to make a difference in it than you know.
(World Environment Day at Mega Public Academy)
I would challenge all of you this week to take Grandpa’s advice and be a light. Challenge yourself to crowd out some of the darkness and see how much light you can bring to others around you.
Danielle Bennett, Nepal Team Member