Straining at the zipper on my suitcase, I finally gave up, opened it back up and took another two dozen flyers out of it and tried again. I was returning from my first trip to India, a trip that had opened my eyes to a world that I never really new existed before. I had agreed to take some flyers back to Canada with me to distribute so people could pray more effectively for the people and issues I’d been learning about over the past four months. There were easily twice as many as I had been expecting but, after getting the zipper shut, I went to work shoving the remainder into the external pockets of my luggage wherever they fit. I grabbed the suitcases handle to pull it back upright and jarred my shoulder doing so.
Right … this was so not going to be under the weight limit.
I mentally reworked the budgeting of my last few rupees. There were still exactly enough for taxis and one overnight stay in Mumbai before returning to Canada. Not enough to pay for overweight luggage. That meant I would have to use my Visa card after all. I had only arrived with a budget for four weeks and had asked God to miraculously keep me out of debt if He really was calling me to leave traditional teaching in Canada and pursue community development work cross culturally. He had provided over and over again as the four weeks stretched into four months. It seemed odd that he would have me go into debt now.
I lay down on the stuffed cotton mattress in my friend’s living room in Delhi and stretched out to try to fall asleep. I had last been in this apartment three months earlier when my lungs had rebelled against the mould and mildew in Mussoorie were I had been learning about some of the clean water issues faced by the marginalized. Despite different religious and cultural backgrounds “S”, an acquaintance I had made, had taken me in for a week and nursed me from bedridden back to perfect health. He’d skipped what few university classes he had during Diwali to keep me company and found an ancient, thumping, air conditioner to run non-stop, purifying the vehicle exhaust and celebratory firecracker smog from the air. We became close friends, talking about the nature of truth, how to recognize God’s voice, and how scoring works in cricket.
Now, after months of other coincidences and divine appointments, I had returned for one night to say goodbye. I tossed and turned but wasn’t able to fall asleep. Was this really happening? Was I really having my heart broken for India and being directed to spend years investing here? How did this connect with my desire to learn from and serve in a First Nations community? Was God going to somehow keep me from debt, giving the confirmation I had asked for if I was to seek for funding to come back here full time? Was this really possible for a boy whose weakness, naivety and health problems had made him sure that he could be a ‘sender’ but never a ‘goer’? The questions didn’t seem to stop but eventually I did drift off to sleep.
The next morning I smoothed out my north Indian Khan suit and decided that there were few enough wrinkles in it that I could wear it to Mumbai. No western cloths came close to it’s comfort for traveling in.
The airport ticket counters were delayed as the building was under renovations. A slight mother in a bright yellow sari was having a terrible time quieting her child a few people behind me. I caught the child’s eye and stuck out my tongue. Seeing that I had his attention I bugged out my eyes and scrunched my nose. I may even have made a noise that rhymes with “blatharatha” but you’ll never get me to admit it. The child stopped crying and looked quizzically for a few seconds before he gave me a smile. The mother nodded her thanks and I offered them my place in line. She clearly had a longer day ahead of her than I did. As we switched places I noticed that an Indian Airlines employee had seen the exchange. I probably hadn’t done a lot to detract from any ‘crazy westerner’ stereotypes he may have held. However, his smile implied that he at least approved of my helping out.
Soon this was the attendant I stood before as I heaved my suitcase onto the scale. I started to reach for my Visa card but froze as I read the scale’s readout.
The attendant and I looked at my bulging baggage and then back at the flashing readout.
“To be completely honest I had sort of expected it to weigh a bit more then that…”
The attendant grinned and started dragging it to the conveyor belt.
“I’m sure … <hurf> … that it’s … <koff> … fine …”
Thanks for joining for the first of five blogs about the return trip from my first time in India. The others will show up over the next four Wednesdays. I’d love to hear in the comments times when the random act of kindness of a stranger or acquaintance made a huge impact in your life.