Empathy in India

One of the greatest frustrations of parenting is that you cannot force feed all the wisdom you’ve gained into your children. After 30+ years of life Tom and I understand the joy that comes from putting the needs of others above your own. After all, we forsook the freedom of our 20’s to have kids, lots of them, and have made raising them our top priority. We chose diapers over designer clothing, swim meets over concerts and art openings, and homework over doctorates. We have no regrets and, in fact, are thrilled for every day that we have to share with these four intriguing people. They challenge us to grow in ways we never imagined possible and give us often frightening insights into the composition of our character.

We have tried to model service for our children by helping wherever and whenever we can. Usually these efforts involve people we already know–friends, Anne’s Sunday School students, family members–but last year’s hurricane provided an unusual opportunity to serve strangers. In September, Tom, his dad, Lou, and Dax traveled to Hattiesburg, Mississippi with members of our church after Hurricane Katrina and cleared trees and debris from homes and schools. Tom returned to New Orleans in October where he ripped out moldy drywall and encountered smells and sights that still haunt him.

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While it takes a major force of nature to penetrate the walls of our comfortable, suburban existence at home, we are hoping that our upcoming year will abound with opportunities to witness, feel, and act on behalf of others. Abigail Adams mirrored this thought when she wrote to her son John Quincy, “When a mind is raised, and animated by scenes that engage the heart, then those qualities which would otherwise lay dormant, wake into life and form the character of the hero and the statesman.” We’re not encouraging anyone to go into politics, but we’ll take a hero any day. We are assuming that we will find the most vivid of such scenes in India, where we plan to stay at least one month. Much of that time will hopefully be spent working for Rising Star Outreach, a charitable organization founded by a friend and dedicated to rescuing the “cast off” of Indian society. RSO began by providing basic medical care to those suffering from leprosy (which can now be cured for about $1.50) and expanded to serve the children who are denied access to schools, medical care, and the basic necessities of life because a family member suffers from the debilitating disease. RSO’s children’s homes provide a safe, nurturing environment for leprosy-affected, orphan, and mentally and physically handicapped children. Becky Douglas, the founder of RSO, claims what these children need most is love and attention. That most certainly we can give, and hopefully all of us will be better for it.

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