Assumptions at a Distance

To me, the most important part of our meeting had to do with analysis of perceptions and stereotypes. After my experience attending the South Carolina community service trip, I realized the value of analyzing where our perceptions come from. I entered the program with some negative attitudes about religion, and think these came from my experiences with my parents growing up. My thoughts changed as I saw the impact religion had on joining together a community in order to help those who were falling through the cracks. I also felt pity, and this is something even more important to reflect on. When I hear about the slums in Mumbai, I feel pity. That is the immediate feeling. But to feel pity is to automatically assume that my life, my perspective, and my experience is somehow better. Everyone experiences suffering, and all of us do in different ways. No one should be pitied alone, because that does not reflect the deep truths that lie behind each different individual. When we feel pity, we classify that individual story with sensations of sadness only, rather than reflecting on the truth of their existence, and the complexity of many emotions which we feel.We need to think more about what ideas we are coming into Mumbai with. From pictures on the front page of the New York Times to the movies we have watched, all of us have been inundated with images of poverty and disaster. This is what we see, while our world is glorified as whiter, purer, more sophisticated, and filled with less suffering. Ultimately, I think we not only need to reflect on what we think of India, but also our perceptions of surrounding places. If there is suffering in Mumbai, is there not also suffering in Lawrence. Millions of American children live below the poverty line, starve, and cannot receive a good education. Why, then, do we feel the need to go to Mumbai? Maybe to begin to see the truths of our own community. Maybe to see that all of us have suffering, and that service is not merely about sympathy for the poorest or hungriest, but about a constant conscious endeavor to make our immediate world a better, less painful place for those in it. --Farris