By Tim Hague Sr.
When the trip was first announced, I came home and immediately said to my wife, Sheryl, ‘I want to go on this trip’.
The trip was to India. It was a service trip where individuals from our church were invited by churches in India to assist them in their work. Their work consisted of establishing school’s, running orphanages, creating jobs in local communities and the like. It sounded fascinating even though India had never been on my ‘must see’ list of countries.
Then I heard the timeframe. November 9th to 26th. Sixteen days. Ouch! I hesitated, then withdrew altogether. In my mind, this was far too long to be gone by myself on such a challenging trip. You see, Sheryl, my wife would not be going and while I would be traveling with some very good friends there would be no one really close. Parkinson’s close.
This is a part of my reality with Parkinson’s. It makes the adventurer timid. The sure of heart to question, to doubt and to shrink back.
But, of course, she was having none of that.
‘You’re going. You will be fine. We’ll make arrangements and put in place the things you might need. You want to do this and you can. You are going.’ She basically made me go. Yes, I wanted to go, but I would not have had she not insisted.
This is the kind of spouse, partner, care partner, business partner that books and blogs are written about. The person who encourages you, yes, even pushes you to meet your full potential.
I have been home for a number of days and am still bedevilled as how best to describe my experience. The teaching that I had the opportunity to do was challenging and encouraging. I shared on the topic of suffering and how from a Christian perspective we understand and respond to hardship. Quite frankly, in this place, with these people who face hardships unknown to me, I felt vastly inadequate to the task. Yet their response was warm, welcoming and grateful. I was left humbled by their gratitude.
We traveled north and east to the border of Bhutan driving through dense jungle. Throughout the jungle animal paths could be seen and along the road signs warned of reduced speeds. It is a serious infraction to hit an elephant. Unfortunately, we saw none.
The countryside was breathtaking. Flying into to Delhi we could see the majestic Himalayas in the distance and from the northern border of West Bengal we could see in the near distance their foothills. They were truly magical. Tea plantations were abundant every where we traveled filled with labourers plucking by hand some of the world’s finest tea leaves. There is a richness and deep beauty to the land.
The people are some of the kindest and most hospitable I have known. We were welcomed into homes and generously provided for by individuals who have so little. Whatever they owned they graciously shared. When it came to the food I was very happy to receive! I enjoyed Indian food prior to my travels and now it holds especially fond memories of new friendships made over delectable dishes so very far away.
Then there is a dichotomy that I am reluctant to put into words but was a part of the reality. So many places were so filthy. There was garbage strewn everywhere. The cities and towns were full of cattle, sheep, goats, dogs and their accompanying filth. Many times I found myself standing on a street corner trying to bring together these two very opposing experiences. Such beauty scarred by such dirtiness.
I’ve had a number of fellow travellers comment on the smells of India. Strange but true Parkinson’s fact : I can smell very little anymore. This is a side effect of Parkinson’s and I’m sensing a true blessing in this case.
I am typically not a tea drinker, but on one occasion I did not have my Starbucks Via with me and black tea was being served. So, why not? I don’t dislike tea, I just prefer coffee. One cup of tea and it was instant dyskinesia and tremors! Think of the times you have seen Michael J. Fox on television and his Parkinson’s has him swaying and bouncing around. That’s me on black tea (or at least that’s how I felt)! I am a caffeine junky. I’ve drank coffee since being able to sit up on my dad’s knee. However, this Parkie will never touch black tea again.
In short I loved India, yet, I’m not sure I want to go back. It is a beautiful yet hard place. It is compelling and repulsing all in the same moment. It leaves me incredibly conflicted because I love the new friendships I have made but am so very uncomfortable with the culture. I could, and have, go on for hours telling harrowing stories of driving in India. I have never been a nervous passenger but then I’ve never been a passenger in India before.
India is a challenging country for many westerners. It’s big, it’s loud, it’s crowded, the driving is insane, it is plagued with extreme poverty. The country has a population pegged at 1.2 billion people. The capital city of Delhi has just shy of 19 million people and the greater metro area has a population in excess of 24 million. All of Canada has a mere 33 million. Added to the people are all the cattle, sheep, goats, dogs and monkeys that roam the streets.
It could be easy to see all that is unfamiliar and uncomfortable and miss something profoundly important. That is the men and women who work diligently to serve their communities.
The ‘minister entrepreneur’ who starts schools for the poor, starts weaving and sewing business’ and chicken farms for communities who have little means for income generation.
An orphanage run by two families that houses, teaches, feeds and cloths eighty plus children.
Pastors who face the threat of being, and at times are, physically harmed for their faith. Yet they continue in their work to provide support, encouragement and hope to their communities. They ride their bikes twenty five kilometres, one way in all kinds of weather, to serve remote communities.
In each of these instances they have exemplified what it really means to Live Your Best. Even when they have so little they displayed a level of generosity and gratefulness that was moving. They have left me encouraged to display that same kind of generosity in my efforts within the Parkinson’s community.
I have returned home with a renewed sense of gratitude for the care partner in my life who knows me and is willing to push, just enough, to keep me moving. To keep me living and experiencing all of life.
‘You’re going. You will be fine. We’ll make arrangements and put in place the things you might need. You want to do this and you can. You are going.’
If you have this kind of partner make sure you tell them how grateful you are for them. If you are that person: thanks.
Now having gone and not having experienced any of ‘those days’, in fact having had a fabulous trip, I’m left puzzling over my willingness to pull back from the challenge. My ‘excuse’ is Parkinson’s; what is yours?
We each have fascinating new opportunities waiting for us. Don’t let your excuse keep you from experiencing everything that you should and all that you can be. Keep going, never stop moving and always Live Your Best.
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