Tuesday, 1 March 2016

A creation care conversation in a tea shop

We were sitting in a tea shop in a bazar of a little town (biggish village) deep in the rural heart of Lalitpur district.

My colleagues had gotten up and walked out, and I was about to do the same when two men sat down opposite me.

Who are you and what are you doing here?

I introduced myself.  They did too.  I told them I was with HBM hospital.

"Oh, you are with an NGO?  Give us jobs.  We can work for you."

The tone was hard.  The eyes probing.  One of the two was bordering on the unfriendly.

What to say?

I asked them what they did.  They told me that they were private teachers.  Then they talked about a government school.  I asked them if they took tutions to help children after school.  No, they said.  They were teachers.  Normal teachers.

I finally figured it out.  They do teach at a government school.  But they are not government employees.  The govt. has too few teachers in local high school, so the "Parent Teacher Association" has hired some more.  They take fees to support the extra hands.   Lukash later told me that these are called 'guest teachers.'

By then Lukash had come back.  He slid in beside me and took over the conversation.

"We believe that God has made everything.  The trees, the animals, the water, us humans.  He has made everything and it is very good.

And of all the creation, what do you think is the crown, the very best?" Lukash asked the two opposite us.

"Humanity" said one of them.  The other started an elaborate ritual of taking out his tobacco and preparing in his hand for his oral fix.  He clearly was not interested anymore, but was sitting on the inside and could not escape.

"Correct" said Lukash. "Humanity has been made by God to look after the rest of the creation.  But we have done a pretty bad job at it.  We spoil things by overusing them selfishly.  We are at loggerheads with the rest of creation.  We fight with each other.

So what we are doing as an organisation is to help people look after their natural resources.  To work together in teams.  To solve problems and look after creation as God has asked us to do in the first place."

He then went on to briefly talk about the community based organisations we help set up and work through.  Village watershed management committees.  Women's savings groups.  Farmers clubs.  Adolescent groups.  All of these can help communities grow strong and live out the peace that God wants us to.  All of which can help us manage the creation God has given us.

Sweet words to my ears.  Not so sweet to Mr. Interrogator No. 1.  He wanted out.  The other guy - a bit younger had a flicker of interest on his face.  His expression was not as hard.

Lukash then asked them about themselves.  They opened up a bit.  Turns out they are already involved with a local NGO.

"Give us a job" they repeated to Lukash.  He turned it around: "you give us a job!" he said.   We are a small organisation - but you are here locally and already involved with some work.  Tell us what we can do to help you?

Mr. Initiator had had enough.  The chat was over and they got up and headed out.  We followed at our own speed.

These are the men who are educating the next generation(s).

Its a hard land which produces a certain hardness in some of the folks we meet.  Or is it vice versa?

Lukash shared later as we bounced along through the dirt roads that lead to the village we are working in - that he believes everyone should be talked to.  Even folks who are hostile.

Lukash reminded me of a notorious character from our Nav Jeevan Hospital days in the late 1990s.   A certain fellow from a village 8 kms away who made life miserable for the hospital with his antics and hostility.   But it seems that later Lukash continued to meet him - and saw a total change in his actions.

Love covers.  Love can chip away hard hearts.  Most important ingredient for me right here, right now is love.  And that means even loving hard men.

1 comment:

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