Stories. [Guest Post from Beth]

Beth has lived and worked among women in Kolkata’s red light areas for years. She is a dear friend – who happens to have the bragging rights of introducing Becca and me. She recently reflected on stories on her own blog, A Site for Sore Eyes – which you should follow – and graciously allowed us to re-post it for you here.


I’ve always loved a good one. I remember sitting on my bedroom floor listening to my mom read me “Where the Red Fern Grows” before i could read myself…both of us crying when they had to bury the doggies…(sorry, yes, the dogs die…)

But it hasn’t stopped with plot lines and imagined characters. The people in my life, those woven into my own story…I love sharing their memories, windows into a secret inner life, experiences, ideas, dreams, pain.  Hearing them moves and changes me, reminds me of the inward kingdoms that we each inhabit and rule. Listening reminds me how connected we all are.

For the past few months I’ve been gifted countless invitations to the homes of our Sari Bari ladies…they have used their precious resources, money and time to love me.  And in the space of an afternoon I have received more gifts than would be adequate to try voicing.  I have lounged on beds and floors and kitchen doorways watching my friends grind garlic and chilis and seeds into cooking paste.


I have reaped the rice belly benefit of India’s love language, force feeding…and in that space I have heard stories untold. Accounts of childhoods…or lack thereof…weddings and disappointments. Dreams and unanswered prayers. The gift of knowing one another’s story is about connecting, not about power or trying to fix someone. It is about caring enough to choose presence, validation comes in hearing someone, and both people can receive…

Eight year olds should not have to work for their food.  And little girls should not be married at 14.  Husbands should not leave their wives for younger versions.  And kids should not have to bury both parents by the age of 12. But suffering is only part of the story. The thoughts, the process, the dreams…they are there too, side by side. And my favorite part, is when we arrive at where they are today…the person they have become.

The people we have become, because of our stories.  Gifts to one another, woven together.

As I told the Sari Bari women two weeks ago…In 2004 when I set foot on Indian soil, I knew none of their names, they were living their lives only two metro stops away, and yet I knew none of that then. While I was hand pumping my water from the corner pump in Nehru Colony, they were doing the same just 15 minutes away…neither of us with even the seed of a dream that one day we’d both end up at Sari Bari discovering Freedom. I love looking back, and seeing how our colors run together.  I love watching a good story unfold.

Today I am thankful. For the chance to look back. For the chance to know and be known, by many who don’t even speak my same language. To be trusted by women whose trust should be buried and gone by now.  I am thankful to be called to listen.

Perhaps those days of hearing my mom read borrowed realities from the library were a great preparation for other far off settings…other bedroom floors…other tears, crying and embracing and even celebrating the things that we bury…Image


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