Gifts of Belonging

We pilgrims journeying to new places are continually given gifts: the gift of observing, sitting with others, watching and present; the gift of accompaniment, standing alongside as others live their lives; and at times the gift of invitation, joining in, welcomed as a member. Each day in the busy streets of Kolkata or the bougainvillea-dotted foothills in the north we have found one or more of these gifts.

batch2014This time we were mostly observers, eating a cold chicken sandwich and fried wantons as the 11th graders honored the departing seniors. 14 girls and 13 boys cheered on their classmates as they danced a traditional Ladakhi dance or a modern Bollywood hit. They hooped and hollared as boy-and-girl pairs played the newspaper-dancing game, in which every few minutes the newspaper (the limits of their dance floor) was folded in half. Traditional conservative society quickly gave way to modernity as all the boys picked up their counterparts and cradled them baby-like above the final fold of the newspaper, now a four-by-six inch space.

The ceremony ended with the distribution of gifts to all the graduating seniors. Before each gift was given, a brief description of its recippient was read. As their classmates were described by their sweetness, smarts, strength or singing voice, a cacophony of two dozen voices shouted, hands pointing in confidence, “That’s Abishek! That’s Rina!” Then Abishek, Rina and the rest, known by their classmates, walked forward to claim their gifts. By the end 27 gifts were given and 27 faces were stained with tears, some pouring uncontrollably. For some this was not only school, this was where they lived, played, studied, fought, slept, and grew for 12 years.

Maybe it’s the same in high schools everywhere. Maybe, then, it’s not that special. But maybe it doesn’t matter, because for these 27 students – in this space and time – they soaked in the gift of belonging.

 

On [Taking] Photos

I have a confession: though I am a photographer and an avid traveler, I make a terrible travel photographer. I daily take myriad mental snapshots, savoring the light and texture an[...]

 

Embraced Endings

I did not expect this. I did not expect to be so overwhelmed by love. I did not expect to find a community that we fit so well. I did not expect so much of what now fills my heart.

 

So Full it Hurts

“Nobody is going to understand this when we get home,” I whispered.