Love Before You Give

During our stay at ESI, I would wake up to this quote every morning: “You can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving.” The quote stood over a little nook in the room I shared with Abigail. The bold, brown printed letters always remained for me to read, as it stood above the red cushions lining the wooden surface of the nook. I remember my heart responding immediately upon first sight. Even before coming on this trip, I had been considering the ways I could change my mindset about service and community engagement. However, I only used my mind to think about this question. In Ahmedabad, I learned that I should live my life through the heart, mind, and hands. I seemed to only have one-third of that down. I missed the connection between my heart and hands. For me, this quote tells me that you cannot give or fulfill the needs of others without loving. If love comes first, I should have faith that everything else will follow. This basic step of loving had completely slipped my mind, and I was struck by the simplicity of the method. If I put my heart forward, maybe my mind and hands will follow.

After reflecting on the quote in Ahmedabad, I found myself thrown off in the contrasting environment of Pune. The city, hotel, and change of pace made me feel less present. Part of me missed the life back at ESI, especially the people and the natural beauty of the institute. For the first time in Niswarth, I found myself uncomfortable, but not in a way where I felt like I was pushing my own boundaries. I just felt “out of it.” The same feeling stayed with me while meeting the Akanksha students for the first time. The Design for Change system allows us to give solutions to communities, but I found myself caught up in the technicalities of the project, rather than trying to engage myself with my new peers in the program. The next day, I was disappointed in myself that I had not been able to offer my peers love and support. I was so caught up in thinking about how I felt that I had failed to consider the feelings of others. The next day was much better, as I got to know the people in my group. For a moment on that first day, I had felt myself slip back into my own habits of worrying about how I could give, rather than taking the time to love. I hope that during the DFC project, I will remind myself to love before I try to give.