James Truslow Adams wrote in 1931, “The American dream that has lured tens of millions of all nations to our shores in the past century has not been a dream of merely material plenty, though that has doubtlessly counted heavily. It has been much more than that. It has been a dream of being able to grow to fullest development as man and woman, unhampered by the barriers which had slowly been erected in the older civilizations, unrepressed by social orders which had developed for the benefit of classes rather than for the simple human being of any and every class.” At the time, this was very true. America thrived on independence and the notion that anything was possible with hard work and will power. Today however, the American Dream is defined as a life of personal happiness and material comfort as traditionally sought by individuals in the USA. Somehow the dream became less about hard work and more about how much money one can obtain in order to live comfortably and buy all of the wants of the world. We live in a very selfish culture that is most often concerned with what we do not have and more to the point, what we could have if only we had x-amount of money. People are constantly thinking “How much easier our life would be if we had a new car” or ladies “How much more beautiful we would look if only we had this new beauty product.”
There were two things that stood out to me upon arriving in India. The first thing was instead of toilet paper in the restrooms, there is a bucket of water next to the toilet. Needless to say, you shake people’s hands with your right hand. The second thing I noticed was a bit more humbling.
“And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’” Mark 12:41-44
As I sat in Sunday school, observing, I saw that every child had an offering to give. Just like the widow, these kids do not have much. Yes they have shelter, clothes, food and showers and are much better off than they would have been had they not been taken into this orphanage. But they do not generally have extra money. On the second Saturday of every month, the children’s families come to visit them and usually bring their favorite foods along with about ten to twenty rupees for spending money, which is the equivalent of between eighteen and thirty-eight cents. With this amount of money, they would be able to buy ten to twenty candies. Instead, for the next month, the kids give five rupees each week as offering until they run out. It does not bring them joy to spend on themselves; they take no interest in it. They are so eager to give on Sunday mornings because they are so proud and happy that they actually have something to give to God. For them, it is not common to have anything to give, but the second they do, their greatest desire is to give it away. Witnessing the joy of these kids who are ten years old and younger I became introspective. What I began to realize is that I am not nearly as giving as them. I spend so much time worrying about what I think I need, and never stop to see all that God has given me and how little I have given back.
Their hearts are so humble and willing that they not only give money, but any extra thing they have. The children are given a biscuit during Sunday school. Afterward many of the little girls ran up to me saying, “Maddie Akka, eat this,” as they offered me their treat. They were so excited to have a new Akka (big sister) that they wanted me to share in their joy. My heart twisted for them. Here I am, with more than enough, and these beautiful little girls with their huge hearts are offering me their treat. So often we spend our days worrying about what we need when God will take care of what we need. These kids at a very young age have already discovered the power and joy of giving, I pray that I will grow to be as eager to give as they are.