Calcutta... where the streets are marked off into houses by tarps, where people bath on the sidewalks, where incense fills the air, where tourists roam and pay $1 per night for a bed, where Mother Theresa's worldwide service to and among the poor began, where the British ruled until the nonviolent rebellion of Gandhi who led his people to regain their independence. Because of the British rule, India is remarkably more developed than say Nepal, which was never under British rule and thus has no railway system where India's railway is incredible, having more than 1 million employees. That's more than any other corporation in the world, according to Josh. Despite the development here, the poverty seems greater (or maybe just more visible to the tourist) than any other place we've visited on this journey so far. It is strikingly similar to Nairobi, yet not quite at that level of poverty I don't think.
Today was our first real day in Calcutta since yesterday we were more like zombies recovering from the journey here. After some very tasty, spicy Indian curry, we headed out for the day. We visited a cemetery where many of the British were buried and neither of us have ever seen a cemetery like this... large stone tombstones as big as houses with some very moving and inspiring words about those who were buried below, quite a contrast to the cremation of Hindus in Nepal who are burned in the open along with all of their earthly belongings. Most were in their 20s or 30s and died a few hundred years ago.
Then, after looking forward to this for so long, we walked to the Mother House where Mother Theresa began what became a worldwide service to the poorest of the poor. I can think of no one whose life has set a better example of the love that Christ called us to show towards each other. She listened to God thru silent prayer, and she decided to 'do something beautiful for God.' I strongly believe that God used her in mighty ways and that He is still doing so today, to challenge many, myself included, to reach out in humility and to love and help others who are less fortunate. The first center was actually opened on a spot that was once seen as one of the most Holy Hindu areas in Calcutta.
Her example and challenge is quite tough, especially when you are a white person in India. Everyone sees you as rich and everyone asks you for money. How do we know who really needs it? How can we obey the command to 'give even more than what is asked of us' and to give generously on every occasion because of the way that God has provided for us? Sometimes giving a little comes naturally, sometimes it just feels like I'm being taken advantage of. However, if I give a little to a few people and only one of them really needed it, then it was worth it. I'd rather err on the side of compassion than on any other.
And then, like walking right into a novel, we were able to visit Shishu Bhavan. This is the first of so many orphanages worldwide that Mother Theresa and the Missionaries of Charity have founded. We were met by nuns in each place, which in itself was very interesting to me, women who have given all to serve. They said that I am welcome to volunteer with the children there while I am here :) which means that I'll get to spend a few days there, feeding the children, playing with them and learning about their plight and their needs. My mom asked, "How did she know how to start an orphanage?" I read today that it started with small things done with lots of love. She took in a few sick children who were in great need and God provided for them and for so many more.