Hope (part 2)
Continuing with my last thoughts on hope, I received the biggest bout thus far after having met Srini, a Teach for India fellow. Not knowing quite what to accept from the number of Teach for India fellows we were scheduled to have dinner with that night, I had the general sense that we would be meeting with a variety of young adults who had recently graduated from the top undergraduate universities and weren’t quit sure what they wished to further pursue. At first I asked the slew of expected questions such as, “how old are your students?” and “have you enjoyed your experience thus far?” But after about five minutes of listening to Srini, I realized that he was no ordinary kid, simply searching for something to do for a while. Srini was 30 and he had worked around the world as an oil consultant. He had a passion for teaching that could excite a rock and his youthful and out of the box approach to engaging his students was remarkable. Finally I simply had to ask, “what inspired you to sign up for teach for India?” Srini at first looked down a bit and smiled. I could tell there was a deeply personal reason why this meant so much to him and I hoped that I was not poking a sore spot. Finally he looked up and with an immense amount of bravery he began to tell me about his childhood. He told me how his father passed away when he was young; leaving himself, his brother and his mother to survive off of his mothers $8 a month salary. His mother was a mid wife in south India and he told me how they would pray for each child to be a boy, for when it was a boy a 20 cent tip was received, just enough to help them push through the week. He explained how his mother would always tell him and his brother that education was their only hope for escaping poverty, and that more importantly, money would come and go, but you education would always stay with you. Srini took this to heart and he worked hard. He consistently ranked top among his class and received scholarship after scholarship. He made it all the way through both college and graduate school and entered the corporate world where he worked tirelessly for 8 years. Living in some of the wealthier countries, surrounded by nicer things, Srini told me how he began to look down upon India. He judged it harshly and began to loose sense of self. Realizing this, Srini decided to sign up for Teach for India. He wanted to give back to his mother country and help in one of the most impacting ways possible, education.
After hearing this story, my heart was truly filled with hope. At times I struggle with the thought of the overwhelming number of people that need help and the fact that I can only do so much, but now when I begin to feel overwhelmed I can think of Srini. Here is someone who worked his way to the top from absolutely nothing, who had all odds stacked against him and who ended up on the top through hard work and dedication. “You do not need to travel half way across the world to help,” he told me, “it is all about helping those around you, in your immediate community, that makes the true impact, that is what I always tell my kids.” With Srini’s words of wisdom I hope that we can all learn a lesson. No matter how old you are, no matter how much money, education or opportunities you posses, we should all help each other out, for that is what truly makes the world a better place.