WARNING: the foods we cook for Abby are safe for her, but not necessarily for everyone. Please confirm any ingredients are safe for you before using in your diet. Food Allergies can kill and the best policy is complete avoidance. Read this post for more info.

Monday, October 1, 2012

India-Hope in the midst of shocking conditions.

(this was a fav pic- he felt it captured their spirit-)

Derek made it back from India on Saturday. Out of all his global travels, India evoked the most emotion.

The people are amazing. He nicknamed them the "New American's". They work 12-14 hour days, no complaining, fab customer service. Impeccably dressed. They seem tireless to improve their station in life.

What they consider middle class living is what we consider abject poverty. The cost of a flat/apartment is high enough that they generally share the apartment with at least another couple or family(pic of apartment building,middle class). The Caste system is alive and active in Mumbai. Derek was shocked and horrified by those lowest in the caste system. They would not make eye contact, they tried to be invisible, and those above them treated them terribly. They were simply born with the wrong last name.
Derek said it was a National holiday while he was there. The festivities went on well into the night, every night, yet everyone was up and at work at dawn. He was amazed at how clean and well dressed everyone was despite some of their living conditions- even the beggars were extremely well kept.

He said it was difficult to not throw his money at the beggars, especially with babies.. he said it was hard not to tip insane amounts of money to the bellhops,servers etc. This experience touched him, and through him me.

Perhaps we are not taking advantage of the freedoms we have in this country. Perhaps I have not appreciated the access to medical care or the ability to pay for it myself. Our idea of poverty has changed. Our poorest receive cell phones, food, healthcare, housing from the taxpayers. I know some families that are poor or low end of the middle class that have far less then those who are receiving a taxpayer paid lifestyle- so wrong that you work harder and have less then those who aren't working. Many have now had generations of living dependent on the Government. I don't blame them. If I "felt" strongly that the American Dream was out of reach for me, why kill myself working 3 jobs to have less then those kicking back and letting the workers pay for their homes,cells,food and medical care? If I were to bring a handful of the poorest from India and give them 3 seconds here, they would not depend on the government. They would work tirelessly. They would embrace the American Dream because their last name doesn't matter here- it is your willingness to work hard that counts. Or would they? Would they too tire of working tirelessly if they knew they could be living better on the government/taxpayer dollar? Would they fall into the trap too? Yet, why are our numbers swelling here in America of those who have no hope? Is our culture changing? Are we just lazy? What do we want as a Nation? It takes a lot of ants to feed one grasshopper.

My perspective is changed. I "want" a lot of things, but do I "need" them? I think the next time I want to buy an item, I will ask myself, if I were living in Mumbai, would I spend my money on this? We also feel stronger then ever that we must protect our belief system and the ideals of our founding fathers. I was lucky to be born into a family who wasn't poor. Many of my ancestors went through Ellis Island though, they lived their lives here with no education, and less then 2 pennies to rub together, but they believed that at least their children stood a chance at better lives. We are a fast food nation now-if it doesn't happen fast we quit. Despite our better then average lives, Derek and I are worried that despite the opportunities we have been given, that we have given our girls, they won't be able to access the American Dream- that thought sits heavy in my heart.

One of the things that keeps running through my mind is; What if we had been born "untouchables?" Sara as a super preemie would not have survived. Abby probably would not have either.

I also wonder if I would be as sensitive to these perspectives if we had never struggled ourselves? I wonder if all the freebies for chronically ill, chronically poor, chronically undereducated are creating are own society of Untouchables? What will America be like in 3 more generations? Today I am beyond grateful for Abby and Sara's incredible intelligence, and determined to find avenue's other then government dependency for their success in this world- they have great last names, and I don't want them to be untouchable. If an American with a physical disability cannot find a way to be independent,or their families are unwilling to support them without government assistance, what hope is left for India? Do we no longer Dream of Freedom? Or do we no longer have the patience to work for it?


Laura Cox said...

Dear Diane,

My travels around the world have opened my own eyes. I have not been to India, but travel often to Beijing and Shanghai. We stay in 5 star western style hotels with every ammenity, but the poverty and deplorable living conditions are everywhere. There are times when the pollution is so bad you cannot see a mile outside your high rise hotel window.
I dabble in genealogy as well. I am trying to impress on my 14 yr old son the courage of 11 generations ago, when his ancestors left England to come to this savage land. One, a young boy of 12, landed in Jamestown in 1610. He did not have the luxury to play video games, ride his bike or even have a school to go to. Yet he not only survived, but prospered into adulthood and became a prominent land owner due to his own labors.
Learning about these people who came before me, the ones that stood up and fought tyranny, risking their own lives so that we could have all we do today fills me with such awe. I have become like you - buying what I need vs what I want. I am cleaning out all the little used "wants" in my home and patching up all my "needs".
I feel if I can teach my son to have half the work ethic and drive of his ancestors, he will be unstoppable. He is not to use his health issues as an excuse to fail, but as a need to work harder. I try to impress upon him that he is lucky to be able to control his condition with some minor accomodations like getting enough rest and eating right. That in order to achieve his goals, he must choose to make good choices when he eats and how much he sleeps. Such a minor thing when you see the poorest of poor in China, a man with no legs, dragging himself through the subway car filled with people armpit to armpit, singing loud and strong to try and earn a few coins tossed his way.
In America, we are soft.

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