Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chennai, May 27

Life has been well for the last week over here. Things have been going very well. We were able to get a lot of things done, meet a lot of new families as well as a bunch of bachelors from Kerala living together. It's always amazing getting to know new people, their lives and challenges. The guys from Kerala are really interesting, they couldn't find work in their native place so they came to Chennai and found a job working in this cell phone company mostly dealing with prank callers. They spend their time watching the one English channel they get as they don't speak Tamil. It's an odd combination of youthful fun, resignedness at having to work, missing their families, and general lack of purpose. Also with another guy of the same age, who we feel like finally understands his general hunger for happiness and/or trusts us enough to share with us. All of them look to America (to move there or recreate it), and they're never sure for what -- they miss something, and they blame it on India and her problems.

The families we met are another story -- I'm sure we'll find out about them more in time. We get to know people our age quickly. Families' struggles and problems and hopes and fears, you are only able to observe them (or they share them) slowly, unless they are really obvious like substance addiction. Or like another young family that we'll be trying to help recently, who have a basketful of problems like that.

I have to get to know people really quickly, so I'm really learning to ask questions and actually listen and observe instead of think about what I'm going to say next. Various elders have different styles of doing this, and developing my own is a learning process. It's kind of hard to describe, I try to let them talk and tell me about themselves first. Elder Tuscano is more of an outgoing guy so he chats more than I do in doing that.

One or two stories.

Yesterday we were in the house of a brother (all males here are referred to as brothers; females as sisters) named Prakash. Prakash is a drunkard who probably beats his wife and (while drunk) was telling us how he was contemplating suicide. We were thinking of just leaving, because he was obviously drunk, when he started talking. All the sudden my companion starts reasoning with him. It was crazy, I was playing "Tough Love With Drunk Guy" -- and learning how to do that -- and my companion just starts reasoning with this guy about his 1.5 year old son. He gets this guy to say that he needs to set a better example for his son. We get him to realize he needs the tools to end his fighting with his wife, we tell him we've got them and will come back on Sunday to teach him. So we'll go back and tell him about how faith, repentance, and baptism can make him a new man and change him. We walk out and look at each other. My companion says he has no idea why he did that, the Spirit just helped him remember something we both read. I resolve to be more attuned to listening to the Spirit, waiting for it, something I've already learned a lot.
Another story that is really the same story repeated four times, that will probably repeat itself a few more times in the next two years. We meet a guy in his early 20's, who speaks good English so is working in a pretty good job, who finds some satisfaction in life but doesn't really know why he is alive.

LDS have a deep belief that living morally and faithfully on earth is not simply an emulative process of praising God but actually part of a slow, gradual process of deification, really becoming like God or Jesus Christ. So we tell them that.

Before, they don't really know who God is, even though some (2/4) have been raised Christian, they just see God as some force driving them on, supporting them, some mysterious life force (which is basically just Hinduism). They recognize the everyday importance of learning and growing, and the existence of challenges and struggles -- so we explain the deep, eternal significance thereof. How the actual sufferings of a human being -- Jesus, the Christ -- can lift the barriers from their life and help them in this path, if they choose to accept the help. And then I open my heart further, letting them change my own life more. A concrete example: as you know, for twenty years of my life I have been comfortable with high levels of absentmindedness and low levels of awareness. Slowly, that is beginning to change.

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