We are all aware of the injustices of the world, but most of us do little to correct them. We take the coward’s way out by saying that one person can’t make a difference, so why even bother trying?
I am here, now, begging you to be braver than that. I am asking you to have the courage not to be a fucking quitter, even if you believe everyone and everything is doomed.
Say you’re right. And you probably are - one person can’t make much of a difference in the universe’s overall scheme. We’re just too insignificant to have an impact on any grand scale.
But where does that fact leave you?
I’ll tell you where. With a choice.
You can shut down and quit - which most of us do.
Or you can muster up the courage to fight - even if it's a losing battle - because fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves is the only brave thing to do.
My friend, Melinda, is visiting her home in Mendocino briefly before she returns to India to continue her work as a dance therapist for the children of sex workers...
“on alternating days i will stay here in forbesganj and go to the red light district, where there is a center for girls whose mothers are in prostitution but who live at home, and i’ll do the same thing there. so that’s the plan, though it’s a bit terrifying at this point. bihar is not the safest of states, and i am wary of traveling at night, by train or rickshaw. so i’m just going to pretend it’s going to be fine.”
Every single day, Melinda swallows her own fears to help these children - who have few prospects in this world outside of eventually becoming sex workers themselves - to learn that sovereignty over their bodies comes from within.
“we start by taking deep, slow breaths. in and out, with our arms rising and falling in time with our breathing. then we start to make noise; a relatively foreign concept for most children here, who are ridiculously ‘well-behaved’ and silent. we put our hands on our chests and hum…. feeling the vibrations and hearing our voices blend. eventually we yell at the top of our lungs… something that thrills them no end. then we begin to move – wiggling our toes, feet, legs… all the way through our bodies. we affirm with each motion: ‘these are MY toes… this is MY head…’ and ultimately, ‘this is MY body.’ even though they are just mimicking me, they know what they are saying. occasionally we say it in hindi, and the laugh at my pronunciation.”
Melinda chooses to be brave every single day.
“i choose to drink the water… it is ‘better’ to drink what someone offers me so kindly, in a dirty metal cup, when i am in their home, than to refuse it, even though i may have an intimate relationship with the toilet later on. i choose to eat and drink everything i am offered out of hospitality, because that experience of someone finding joy in sharing their meagre pantry with me is worth any negative side effects. some may say i am, by default, choosing to be sick. but that’s okay. it’s worth it. it’s my choice.
i choose to let nisha, a sad and shy 14 year old who was prostituted by her father and sister, brush and braid my hair for hours. all the girls at kasturba have lice, and not sharing a hairbrush is cardinal rule number one, but it is worth it to risk discomfort and annoyance to bond with a girl who has few allies in the world, letting her be skilled and admired for her work.”
As you can see from these excerpts, Melinda writes with eloquence and sensitivity concerning the sacrifices (and rewards) that come with living a fearless life.
“the act of showing up is half the process. the girls here don’t care that i come to dance with them; they care that i come at all.”
Melinda is my hero - as is anyone who fights bravely on behalf of those who absolutely cannot defend themselves. You can donate to Melinda’s cause by clicking here. Or, if you’re in Mendocino this Friday evening, you can attend A Taste of India at the Helen Schoeni Theater (MTC). There will be entertainment, education, and libation with a party plan that includes traditional South Indian dancing by Nicole Fish, samosas and specialty cocktails by Sara Liner, a reading from her travels by Melinda, a screening of Joe Mickey's film India 101, and a silent auction featuring many fabulous items from generous local vendors.
Admission to the event is free and donations are graciously accepted. Melinda's goal is to raise enough money to start an educational fund so that these children may go on to secondary school, as opposed to having to return to life in the brothels.
If you won’t be in Mendocino for this lovely dinner, did I mention that you can donate securely through PayPal by clicking here and then clicking on the PayPal button?
“a friend wrote to me, after my last post, and said that i was breaking their heart. this was and is not my intention; i don’t want to hurt you, to shame you, or to scare you. i have no ulterior motive~ i tell it like i see it. but please: don’t let your hearts be broken. these girls’ hearts are not. they are battered, yes, but not broken. broken hearts can’t effect change, or reach out, or plant seeds of goodness. broken hearts are immobilized, stagnant. i write not to break your hearts but to open them. and yes, the farther and wider they open, the more likely they are to hurt now and again, and the world and i will continue to send arrows that will pierce and wound you. but this is a good thing. this lets you know you are alive, and still caring, and still hoping for better, for yourselves and those with whom you share the planet. let your heart ache, once in a while. and then count your blessings, and go about your day. fight the good fights. dream the good dreams. live like the lotus, at home in the muddy water. or in my case, like the ginormous toads, at home in the gutter of sewage.”
I beg you. Do not turn your back on the defenseless of this world, simply because you have the luxury of feeling a little helpless about how to address the injustices visited upon them.
Do not be the sort of person who hides her head in the mud instead of reaching for something brighter.
My heart is a lotus
Floating on the water’s surface
Sunk by turbulence
Lifted by light
My toes are in the mud
But my arms reach for the sky.