Day 17 Hesitation
“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.” Rabindranath Tagore
My word for my time in India is “hesitation.” The first place I lived was an apartment building. To go out to the market I had to walk down the steps to the street. That meant I had to step over the homeless sleeping on the stairs. I never knew if the person I stepped over had died. I only knew they were miserable.
So I hesitated and took a deep breath before I went outside. I wish I could say that I thought deep thoughts or felt compassion for those I encountered. But I was not brave. I hesitated every time I had to do anything that would expose me to wall to wall poverty.
I spent a lot of time hesitating before I acted.
But I did act. The bravest thing I did was not mercy or compassion but acting in spite of my continual hesitations. I wish I could brag that I eventually learned to move with ease. But when I left India, I have to say that hesitation remained my mode.
When I returned to India to live for the second time, something happened to me. I overcame my hesitation to engage deeply with the people. I think that in my journey I needed to come to terms with overwhelming impoverishment, wretchedness, and miserableness before I could be a loving person.
Tagore, the great Hindu philosopher, described the journey. “You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.” It took me a long time but I travel a different world because I crossed the sea.
This Lent, may we all take the journey we find ourselves own and not withdraw into the journey we think that braver people walk.