It is a humbling experience to be fed by those with little food, or given a gift by those who have nothing to spare. It is tempting to refuse the kindness offered so generously, but it is precisely that staggering generosity that overrides all refusals. The only way to receive such a gift is to surrender to it, to accept it knowing there is no possibility of repayment. It is practical grace. All grace.
The second day we were in India I met Sunaa. At first I thought I was there to care for her, but instead she carried me. I tried to paint the gift of her. The first attempt was a very abstract painting, but there was too much pain in it. I painted over it, and the second attempt was too structured. There is a lot of structure in India, but much of the healing I witnessed happens outside of it. I made a third, and then a fourth attempt. By then the layers were building up and I liked the complexity of the textures. Then I realized that Sunaa's gift impacted me and shaped the rest of the trip for me because of it's simplicity. The painting below looks nothing like what I had envisioned. It is not about pain or need. It is about the deep capacity every single human has to bless another.
Sunaa is from Kerala, in the south of India. Kerala, where bananas grow, where they speak the beautiful Malayalam language and wrap sweet spirits in warm chocolate skin.
"Why did you move so far from home to come here?" I ask her.
She answers slowly, and clearly, "I wanted to help people. I didn't know how I could help, but I thought . . . perhaps I could give kindness."
"Who did you want to help?"
She is quiet for some time, searching for the words. Then she smiles. Sunaa looks me in the eyes in a most un-Indian way until we both know that I am listening with my heart.
And I receive the gift.