“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.” Buddha
I have heard people talk about gratitude, and how they feel grateful about their lives. I have been wanting to talk about gratitude, and here, in this post, I will attempt.
My story beings from the month of February 2017, when I finally decided to put some action to the thoughts swirling in my head. I started going to a village 40kms away from my hometown, to teach kids life skills through the medium of various sports- especially football. As I wasn’t working anywhere during that time, my only source of income were my savings and some money from the home food business that I had started to support myself. I knew that I needed to have a concrete plan, in order for me to go a long way and work efficiently. But I didn’t have any clue about where I was going. Every day, I would get up and struggle to find a reason to get out of bed – but there was just one thing on my mind. Football.
So I was constantly looking for some direction during that time. One day, mom showed me an ad in the newspaper of a fellowship program called India Fellow; she said, “you can do what you are doing now and you won’t have to worry about finance, as they are offering some stipend as well.” I did my research and immediately filled the form. I finally got selected for the fellowship, after various rounds of interviews and assignments, on the 3rd of May 2017. While I was perplexed about the future, I thought it was a risk worth taking.
“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.” A.A. Milne from Winnie the Pooh.
The induction training started on 8th of July 2017 and within a couple of days, everyone there was like family to me. The love, respect and the space for expressing myself without being judged – things that were till now missing from life, were finally filled. The next 20 days were some of the best of my life, a space where I finally felt like I belonged. First and foremost, I am grateful to my mother for showing me that ad in the newspaper because of which I met these people and found a space where I could be truly myself.
During one of the sessions in the training, we were paired into groups of two. We had to share our life through a card, which each of us had picked from a set. I got the word ‘Freedom and Joy’, I told Amruta, my partner for the activity, how these two things are interlinked in everyone’s life, and how I, like many others, function to my maximum potential when given freedom. At the same time, there were plenty of children in India, whose creativity gets restricted due to lack of freedom by their teachers and parents, and that is why I wanted to help them unlock their potential – this is what will give me joy in return.
My wish was fulfilled by Anupama and Nikita from the fellowship program team, when they placed me with an organization called Kshamtalaya which works with kids in south Rajasthan. Among the many values of this organization, the main one is ‘freedom’. Every individual working here has a choice to work with children they way they choose, in whichever way that brings joy to them. I could not have found a better team which constantly supports and inspires me in every way possible way. Thank you Alokesh and Vivek for creating such a space which everyone, including me, is in desperately need of.
“This a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.” Maya Angelou
I started going to my school, located in a remote village called Zed in Kotra, Rajasthan. There is no mobile connectivity in the area, but I was hoping to expose the kids to the outside world and show them how every idea of theirs is possible, and doable by the powerful medium of the internet. After a month, I was thinking about finding a way to get mobile towers over there, so I searched the internet and found out that land and the permission of the owner was needed for this. I dropped the idea for some time but to my surprise there was internet connectivity in the area in the next two weeks. Another wish of mine was fulfilled.
There were many issues I observed in my time there, like children not having shoes and some children having eyesight problems. I asked a few organizations to help in contributing for shoes and footballs, but they told me it was a long process. I needed some more footballs and shoes urgently as kids were getting really passionate about the game but were getting injured all the time because they didn’t have shoes. A month after this, I got 50 balls through one organization, and exactly a month after that there was an eye camp set up 4 kilometers away from the school. I managed to take my entire class to that camp, and I was shocked to know that one of them had a cataract. I had no idea that even 13 year olds could have this ailment. If I wouldn’t have recognized that something was wrong with their eyes, it would have made the case even worse. But thanks to whoever organized that eye camp, my student got his eyes operated, free of cost.
“I have many beautiful flowers,” he said; “but the children are the most beautiful flowers of all.” Oscar Wilde in The Selfish Giant.
During the camp I met an wonderful lady, Zoe who had come in as a volunteer with the hospital team. We clicked almost instantly, and we talked for an hour about the situation of that village and what I was trying to do to change the situation. During that time, I also told her that I was looking for shoes for my students, as they got injured while playing barefoot. She immediately asked me how much would it cost to get all of the shoes. I calculated and told her that it would take around 10000 rupees. She agreed to give it to me, and told me that she was ready to help. We agreed that I would come down to Mount Abu to collect the amount where she was staying. After couple of days I went to Mount Abu, and as I reached Zoe’s, she came to pick me up with her friends Mathilde and Mike. I was glad to have got such a reception. They showed me the Global Hospital that is doing some wonderful work in those remote areas.The next 24 hours were exceptionally overwhelming for me, as these angels Zoe, Mathilde, and Mike showed me so much of love, respect, and care that I instantly took them to my heart. And now I am a part of their family. Zoe gave me Rs 11000 plus t-shirts for the kids. I feel a big chunk gratitude towards Zoe, without whom the children would have had to stop playing without shoes.
About two weeks before this, I went out to throw garbage at night, but wasn’t able to find the place where everyone threw garbage. So I thought I would talk to the Sarpanch to create a system that would help everyone in the community to throw waste and in the process, the town would be clean. The next day I had a word with my friends that we should do this, but we were not able to take out the time to go to meet the Sarpanch for the next two weeks. As I returned from Mount Abu and was walking towards my home, feeling overwhelmed by my new friends, I saw something that left me spellbound. In front of every home, there were dustbins installed.
I am not sure if i will be grateful about these things a year later, a month later or even a week later but at this moment I am extremely grateful for each and every one of these things. Gratitude shifts our focus from what is negative to what is positive. It is so easy in our culture to be critical or judging or looking for whats wrong and whats not right. But gratitude just shifts the focus, it is an opportunity for re-framing, which gives us this new lens on life. Some might say that we actually do live in a culture of gratitude but do we actually follow it?
Maybe not, but I am really grateful for the knee injury that I suffered 2 years back, but this is what got me time to rest, reflect and stay home. After the surgery, I was on bed rest for 6 weeks. It was here that I got the time to plan what I really wanted to do in my life, which I had been unable to do before this, owing to my hectic work routine. During that time when I finally decided about leaving the job and finding something related to football, was when I took the first step. Ultimately for me it connects me to something that is bigger than myself. And I am very thankful for all of this.
Some powerful words in the video that follow. But do take the time out today and think about everything you are grateful for. Like me, you will find a wonderful set of stories too.
“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” ~David Steindl-Rast