Last January, I decided I wanted to go on a hard-core summer mission trip with Kairos, a Christian ecumenical international student body I belong to. After finding out that the Uganda mission trip I was initially aiming for wasn’t an option, I opted for the Kairos India Mission Trip which was to be held in the months of June and July, 2015. Five months later, after taking my last final exam for the year, I found myself packing my stuff and boarding a plane to Mumbai, India.
Although things weren’t as extreme as they would have been, say, in Kolkata, I find that this matters little when it comes to what I learned from my trip. Among the things I learned, some I discovered for the first time and some I had thought about but had never really understood. I’d like to share one notable lesson from each of these two categories.
Properly speaking, I learned that I didn’t need to go looking far for a chance to do what one does when going on such a mission. Once I got home, I discovered that my ordinary surroundings held ample opportunities for me to love and serve others, to grow and to live for an ideal. I found out that being there for a sick family member, friend or acquaintance turned out to be just as much of an adventure as organizing a sports day for poor kids in the slums of Mumbai. I find it interesting how I was only able to discover this truth about life at home after having been elsewhere. And seeing the importance of the lesson learned, I find it safe to say that I needed the kids in India more than they needed me.
As for the lesson I had thought about but only understood after having been to India, it has to do with identifying what is important in life. Particularly, I understood what place my career was supposed to occupy in my life. The quote “work was made for man; man was not made for work” offers a very good perspective on the matter. In my case, I found out that academic education was made for man and not man for academic education. For the past few years, I had been giving my success dreams- however noble they may be- too much attention, and some of this time and energy was spent on someone or something else’s expense. I was slowly forgetting to live in and for the present, and seeing people living life day by day in a rich, remarkable and life-giving fashion called me to pause and reflect on the way I should perceive life. I still struggle in finding the proper balance between studies or work and other needs and duties (such as spending time with family or serving in a scouts movement), but I hope the balance never tips in the wrong direction.
Although I hadn’t planned to, I find it hard not to talk about the lesson of simplicity when sharing about a mission trip to such a place as India. In simple terms, simplicity would mean buying or owning not more than what you need. It seems to me that one doesn’t need to buy the Note 5 if buying the Note 4 would equally satisfy his/her needs. After witnessing the widespread poverty found in India, I feel that living a life of simplicity is the only reaction that makes sense. Indeed, I believe that blaming the system is a cowardly way to tackle the problem- if not a downright lie-, and I find that we can easily become culprits of the system if we idly conform to if not openly support it.
I’m grateful for having been part of this mission trip. Getting the chance to love, serve and grow, while getting the chance to understand what’s important in life and reorganize my life accordingly is not something I get to do in a summer internship. In a nutshell, what I learned in India is precisely that one doesn’t have to go to India to live on the edge.
Third year Law Student