As I sit here in the Boston Logan Airport waiting for my connecting flight, I feel like Niswarth has officially come full circle. Over the past three weeks, I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve sweated, and I’ve experienced so many life-changing things. After all of it though, I find myself sitting in the exact same plot of land as before.
But even as I am struck by this eerie airport déjà vu, I am also reminded that in so many ways, the trip has not come full circle at all. In addition to more than a few hand-beaded bracelets and pairs of harem pants, I am bringing home a new sense of what it means to be wealthy.
Before leaving for Niswarth, I was repeatedly told that going to India would make me realize how fortunate I am. I was told that I would see poverty unlike anything I have ever seen before, and that I would learn to appreciate just how much I have.
But this is not what I found at all.
In the low-income communities we visited over our three weeks in India, I didn’t see much monetary wealth. In fact, the families living in those communities were able to subsist on fewer resources than I could ever have imagined. Instead of feeling lucky about my financially comfortable home life, however, I was struck with how little I had compared to these people.
The love I observed when I was in India was overwhelming. Everywhere we went, we were welcomed with open arms and genuine smiles. Even when, compared to what I am used to, the people we visited had so little, everyone shared what they could. This compassion seemed to fill the air in the communities we visited, making me realize the absence of compassion in my daily life.
While we were staying at ESI, there was a quote displayed on the walls that read: “No one has ever become poor by giving” – Anne Frank. At first, I didn’t really understand the truth behind this statement. By the end of Niswarth though, I completely understood.
There are different types of wealth.
What if, back home, we valued love more than money? What if, instead of cramming for that math test, we took the time to support a friend in need? This would not make us poorer. It would make us richer in love.
These past three weeks have been some of the most formative of my life. I met so many new people and saw so many inspirational things. However, this new understanding of what it means to be fortunate is what I will always remember most about my Niswarth experience.