To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity. Douglas Adams
What is Grace? G-ive of yourself, R-elease the love from within, A-sk nothing in return, C- ompassion shows love, E-njoy your salvation. Calvin Dillard
I was truly honoured to have the opportunity to visit the Khangandra New Life School for handicapped and orphan children while in Kathmandu recently. My thoughts wander to the children and teachers often now, wondering how they are in the wake of the devastating earthquake.
I accompanied a group of friends led by three Aussies who, having fallen in love with Nepal and her people, chose to give something back by raising money for the school to improve facilities for the children. We strangers from another land were so very warmly and generously welcomed one would think we were rock stars or royalty come to visit.
Our van, on entering the drive, was flanked by excited children, who had given up a day off school to meet us. The children quickly formed orderly lines and sang a rich and warming folk song. We reciprocated with a rendition of Advance Australia Fair and were warmly applauded for our efforts.
After each of us were individually welcomed with a kata (blessing scarf) and posy, crafted from flowers and foliage within the grounds, we were ushered inside, out of the sun, and offered sweet milk tea ( a real Nepalese treat).
Our hosts, the Headmaster and teachers, each introduced themselves and shared their vision for the school and its pupils. A vision made possible by the funding my friends had provided. You see, Khangandra school receives no government funding and relies solely on donations. Several times I teared up listening to the grand dreams these amazing teachers held for their young charges. Grand not so much in western terms but grand considering the adversity these young people face with regard to distance, poverty and disability.
The school facilities are humble to say the least. Scanty, bare bones, dire even. The classrooms are small. On the day we visited there were 80 children in attendance so there were about 20 students in each classroom. That’s pretty comfortable until you realise there are 300 students enrolled. If they all attended, these dark, cramped classrooms would be terribly overcrowded. The library was closed due to ill repair. The ceiling and walls were not just flaking but literally disintegrating. The playground was merely a dust bowl with a slide but it offered great joy to the children who have an incredible innocence and zest for life.
The money my friends and others have donated enabled the school to deliver safe drinking water to the children and improved the sanitation of the toilet facilities. Services and facilities I take for granted living here in Australia. Again, I cried.
Oh course, there is always more to be done and plans are underway for major improvements. Perhaps these plans will be bought forward as a result of damage caused by the earthquake.
The welcome we received was so unexpectedly warm. The kindness and unconditional acceptance so very humbling that I began to feel shame. I began to question my integrity. You see, many, many times I have been asked to host visitors in my workplace and more than once I’ve grumbled. More than once I’ve believed myself to be “too busy”. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been rude to my guests but my actions haven’t always come freely and with grace.
Watching those children and their teachers in their tiny classrooms and seeing their incredible energy and love of life, it dawned on me, not for the first time, that we don’t need stuff, we don’t need lots of things to make us happy. Here were people with very little who sang for us, played and conversed with us and who showed a great interest in us. They were genuine and authentic. They were happy with their lot.
It became clear to me that it’s the ‘wanting more’ or something else that erodes true happiness. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t aim high but accepting what is, right now, can liberate us from the bonds that tie our minds and hearts in knots.
What a wake up call I got that day in that tiny school in Kathmandu. I realised there are times when I need to forget the hustle and bustle and honour others by being totally present and giving freely of my time, my knowledge and myself. I can’t see myself presenting anyone with a posy of flowers, a hearty rendition of the national anthem or a scarf anytime soon but I can honour them with an open mind and a warm heart.
To serve and honour another is not beneath us, it does not belittle us, it grows connections, it deepens our humanity, it enriches others and it enriches us in the process.
In honour of my Neplaese colleagues,