We all feel sorry for ourselves from time to time and when I’m “having a moment” I remember the time I was in India. We needed to travel to Agra, to begin our hike through the Himalayas. We went to the train station and it was explained to us that there would be porters who would want to carry our bags for us and we should let them because that’s how they made a living. So we all got our money ready, what we thought was reasonable. I was imagining I’d see some strapping young lad when we stopped. But when we hopped out of the bus I had an elderly, bent over man rush up (as fast as his ageing legs could carry him) and grab my “packed to overflowing” suitcase. He swung it up into the air and landed it smartly on his head, then balancing it carefully with one hand on either side he walked surely but steadily toward the platform. I’ve gotta tell you I was riddled with guilt. For the duration of the walk I had to keep telling myself that this was the man’s job and he had a family to feed. That was all I could do to stop myself from grabbing it back and heaving it along myself.
When we arrived at our destination I rummaged around in my money belt for additional cash, handed over the notes and a look of complete surprise crossed his face. I should mention that Indians don’t believe in saying “thank you” they think it’s something that should remain unsaid. And think it’s quite a ridiculous western custom. So that said, I urged one of our guides to translate so I could learn this man’s story. It turned out that he had been a farmer for much of his life. But eventually the land failed to make him a living and he was forced to seek work at the train station when he was in his 60’s. He was 82 when I met him and he’d lost his wife. He said he had to walk about five kilometres to get something to eat because the food at the train station was too expensive. I asked, through my translator, whether he would ever stop work and the answer of course was “no” because there is no welfare there. He would work until the day he died. The final thing he told me was that he supported his children. Even though he had so little for himself, it was important that he help out his kids.
I will never forget this man, I think of him often and it reminds me that we will always have enough. It’s so important to focus on what we do have, rather than what we don’t. There is enough for everyone.