Mary Shannon and the High Life

Trevor leaves…

Posted on: March 23, 2008

My son Trevor left today. If all goes according to plan I won’t see him until Christmas, when the family hopes to join him in India. That’s nine months away. A child could be conceived and born before I see Trevor again.

It’s something of an apt analogy. Trevor, as he knows himself, could very well be reborn by the time I see him face to face.  While he has enjoyed Italy and France traveling with the family, his personal desires have taken him to the lesser traveled countries where he hopes to learn how he might make a difference. Azerbaijan, Mongolia, and now India. He’s gone to take his first official job since graduating from college.  He is working for the Dakshana Foundation in India for the next year. If all goes well, he may be invited to stay on for another year. Still,  he may be ready to come back home in a year.

Living with nomadic families in Mongolia, he thought, would have prepared him for anything he might run into in India. I think, however, that while surrounded by familiar objects like cell phones and cars he will still run into a culture shock different from anything he’s dealt with so far. Some who have visited India have described it as so poor, full of people who believe that suffering is a necessary part of life. My instinct isn’t that they believe they are suffering for a purpose but rather that they don’t judge. We are so used to judging things here in the States as “right” or “wrong”, “good” or bad”, that to not do so is inconceivable to us. We do it as naturally as breathing, without even trying.  How can you not make a value judgment when you see someone suffering?

Long ago a friend who was the wife of the Irish Ambassador to India said that the diplomats had a choice of two ways to survive their assignment in India. (This was back in the ’60’s mind you.) One was to feel compassion for every beggar they had to step over in the street, and end each day emotionally exhausted.  The other was to pretend they weren’t there when you stepped over them.

There’s got to be a better way. I hope Trevor finds it.

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