Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Fried Chicken

I had an epiphany outside of the new A&W on Gulshan Ave. today.

We went to A&W for root beer floats, and Isaac decided he wanted chicken with a handle (meaning a drum stick). I ordered a chicken meal, and of course he didn't eat it because it was "slimy". We packed it up to take home. We started walking down the sidewalk in search of a grocery store. I'm always disoriented in Gulshan, and we went in the wrong direction. On our way, we passed an old man who was laying on the ground, covered with a thin blanket. Under his head, he had an old cloth wrapped around probably all of his worldly belongings. Cuddled up next to him was a tiny puppy.

After being here for 3 months, seeing people living in abject poverty every day, I'm starting to become a little hard-hearted so I ignored him and walked on. After we discovered that there was no grocery store in the direction we were headed, we turned back. I couldn't stand walking by the man a second time.

I stopped, bent down, and asked him if he had eaten today. He said that yes, he ate breakfast. I then gave him the package with Isaac's chicken in it, and told him to eat it. He mumbled something and I started to leave. By then, a small crowd had gathered around, wondering what this crazy foreign lady was doing talking to an old beggar. One woman asked me if I understood what he said, and I said no. She said that he said he will eat it and will pray for me from his heart.

In Islam, we believe that this kind of sincere prayer is the most powerful and effective kind. This man, who seemingly had nothing to give back to me, gave me such a wonderful gift. I've been feeling so defeated and incompetent for the past few weeks, but he helped me to realize that my being here is important. Even if I only manage to do one small thing, it's still worth it. The suffering is so great here that a little compassion goes a long way. Maybe someday I will be able to make a change here, maybe I'll do something to help relieve this suffering.

I often think about how most Americans (myself included) are unsatisfied. We always seem to be looking for something more. We are unhappy even though we have food and shelter and money to spend. We are in debt and obese because we try to fill that hole with material goods and food. Today I realized that when I gave away that stupid piece of chicken, it made me feel better than any shopping spree or any pan of brownies ever could. Maybe because we "have it all", we forget how important and necessary it is to show compassion to others, maybe because the need for compassion is more concealed in developed countries. It's still there, but it doesn't show itself in hunger or poverty. It shows more in loneliness and insecurity. I hope I can learn to show compassion to those who need it in those less obvious ways. It's easy here because it's right in front of me. I hope it will carry over to my life when I go home.

What a great life lesson.


somewhatdamaged said...

Katie, what your doing is something some only hear about. Your efforts to challenge yourself in a third-world nation are greatly needed. I wish there were more people who had as big of "testicles" as you (not literally). Good luck with all you do, and "Keep on truckin."


PEM said...

What a tearjerker!

You gotta admit, a pan of brownies is pretty tantalizing.

Mmmm, chocolate.