29 July 2004

Journal Reflections, Calcutta

Having seen a dying person crumpled in a heap--
curled in a protective ball,
dirty, naked, starved, old, abandoned,
oppressed to death--
right on the sidewalk;
I move down the streets and see out of the corner of my eye
a piece of mudied burlap in the gutter
or a gray bag of cement lying next to a wall,
or trash piled in a dark alley,
and for an instant fear that it is yet another
who has died un-ceremoniously,
who has died alone and filthy,
who has died no person to comfort them.
How horrifying that such a thought should ever occur,
more so
that such a reality should be--
for our mothers and fathers,
grandmothers and grandfathers,
brothers and sisters,
sons and daughters.
They are not a piece of trash
and should never resemble one
but do,
should never be discarded as such
but are.

You died on the cross so that they might wash their garments white
in your cleansing blood
and dance on the streets of gold
with beautiful, fed, disease-free bodies;
with faces radiant with your glory,
with songs of praise on their lips.
May our worship of you never forget them
May our lives be lived in such a way
that your Kingdom come
to those who die in gutters
and sewers,
on train platforms.

And by the river where they have come crawling
to try to wash themselves clean
but never reach the water.
Open our eyes, open our hearts.
blessed are the poor in spirit.

For theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

15 July 2004

Journal Reflections, Calcutta

Day 2: Angels appear suddenly

Walking home along our busy street, senses overwhelmed by thundering buses, the smell of trash and burning exhaust, people everywhere, darkness. My head is down, watching each step I take. The old man moved directly into my path and I looked up quickly. "Jesus bless you," he said with a thick accent, and stepped as quickly out of my path as he had stepped in. Glimpses of my shepherd, manna, pillar of fire. Such intrusions should no longer surprise me, but my faith is small, and I didn't know that my fear-full walk home included an appointment with an angel. But he met me all the same.

Day 6: He anoints me with oil

Kalighat Hospice. I sit down on the bed with the tiny Indian
lady. She is curled in a little ball with her knees to her chest underneath her red house dress. Her arms are wrapped around her knees and she is smiling and nodding her head from side to side. "Shami acche? (You have a husband?) " I ask her, fingering the red and white bracelets on each of her wrists which signify a married woman. Now, she shakes her head, "No" and tears come to her eyes immediately. Her husband has died.
I ask her if she would like a massage, and as I begin to rub oil into her bony arms, she dips her fingers into the bowl, reaches down, and rubs the oil onto my feet. I am wearing rubber walking sandals, and the oil runs down between my toes and onto the bottoms of my feet. It is hot and one hundred percent humidity. But he anoints me with oil through this woman, and my cup overflows.