“What will we get from your visit?”, this question has been lingering in my mind endlessly. It had strongly bothered me while at Lilapur, where an intern of the Environmental Sanitation Institute had asked us the same question. While in Lilapur we were given so much love and warmth that confronting this imbalance of generosity was jarring. In reality though, the answer to this question is that most likely we will be giving nothing noticeable to these communities, even though they have given so much to us. In my life I expect giving and receiving to be a balancing act, but during this trip the contrary has happened.
When Urja Shah invited us to explore Setco communities with little in return, she hope for our changed mindsets and maybe that is more important than anything we could have given. We think that change is so linked to giving tangible things, but maybe it is from a change of heart. To make the world a better place we must embody the love and care to make a difference. Other than looking at human interaction as give or take, it can be an exchange of much more. We listened to and gave our love to the many people we visited; was that worth anything?
The real catalyst of change starts from an individual's mindset, like the phrase "Be the change you wish to see in the world." Seemingly simple at first, this phrase is rich in complexity. We, fractals of connections, are part of a bigger world, one that may be unknown to us. How will my actions change the world? Inevitably it will be in small ways, but the boundless potentials of our actions are infinite. We constantly search for ways to change the world in places so far from home, but what is near will always be where we will have the most effect.
The truest source of change is from one's own actions. Maybe all we can hope to give back to the places we have visited is our new understanding that may start a ripple effect of awareness. Nonetheless, we have taken more than given from our experiences at the villages, but maybe that is okay. Hopefully, our world cannot be defined by what we give, but the heart we show. As we embark on this trip I find that this same attitude of transactional relationships has followed me here. I have this constant need for our relationships to be based in getting, but what I am starting to realize is that love and presence are much more important.