Kathleen L., American volunteer in the “Garden of Mercy” - the Heart’s Home village in India - shares all the beauty she discovered by befriending one Indian woman:
One of my sisters who has propelled my mission so much in the past three months, who has led me to understand the presence of love and the purpose of suffering is Shanti. In case I haven’t given too much information about her before – Shanti is a 34 year old HIV/AIDS patient who has been living in the Garden for about 4 years. She is gorgeous. She emits all of the immense Indian femininity and grace that the women of this country are famous for. Which was a road block for me in the beginning of my stay in the Garden. When I was with her I felt like a muddy dog running through a luxuriously furnished house. And many days Shanti’s sickness made her anxious, tired, sullen. She experienced so much physical pain that she did not want to be around anyone.
Two months ago, Shanti had a tooth ache and had to have someone take her on the TVS (a mix between a motorcycle and a scooter) to the dentist once a week. I volunteered. And something incredible began to happen. We became friends. Or sisters. Or some strange cross between the two. I began to speak more softly in public, to comb my hair very neatly when we went to Chengalpett and to resist yelling at Tamil men who cut me off in traffic. And Shanti began to tell jokes!
Last week I was watching Shanti sew with a friend. And I saw her. I saw all of the little annoying things she does and simultaneously I saw the light that she is. The way that her beauty lights up a room. Her perseverance through her sickness, the way she takes absolutely nothing for herself in how amazingly she cooks and sews, how she will love someone like me in the simple fact of wearing a green sari to a feast because I told her it’s the color she looks best in.
This is the miracle of this place. A turning, so small. A minute change in direction. Tiny, but through this God comes to us. Love is here.