August 11, 2011

A heart filled with ineffable joy

Today was a good day.

Today was my fourth full day at my field placement. I work at Sahodari, a project of YWCA Madras, which is a family counseling center and a short stay home for women. Even so early in my field work, I had begun to dread Tuesdays and Thursdays – my field placement days. Here’s why: on my second day of fieldwork, I was thrown into a room (by myself) with the women and told do some group therapy. As a sociology major with no social work background, I wasn’t exactly sure what to do. I didn’t have any materials with me and was not even sure what one does in “group therapy.” Plus, I have a hard time communicating with them, when I speak English and they speak Tamil. So, that day was really rough and left me feeling very self-conscious about myself and my abilities. Each day has been better.

Sahodari is preparing for their 25th Anniversary Jubilee celebration taking place next week. They needed my help typing up some addresses to mail invitations and scanning in pictures for a slideshow for the program. I was thankful for the office work. My heart always races with worry when I have to spend time with the clients, because I remember that day I felt so lost. However, since that Thursday I have been working on a book, THE BOOK. A work in progress that includes games, songs, activities, crafts, and program ideas that I can do with the women on any given day. I also loaded up on arts and crafts supplies over the weekend. With my little red backpack filled with goodies – what should I fear??

In the afternoon, there was a lull in the Jubilee workload and I was instructed thus by my director, “Kate, why don’t you do some group therapy with the clients.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

I headed into their small concrete room with my backpack slung over my shoulder. They greeted me warmly – “Good afternoon, Miss!” came the chorus of voices. I figured we could color again. I decided to have a “free draw” until I have built up my rapport with the clients and get to know them better. As I handed them their own paper and set of crayons they all responded, “Thank you, Miss.” And they began to draw – beautiful intricate flower designs, helicopters, fruits and whatever they desired. Shortly, a counselor came in and told me to make them draw something different. “They draw flowers every day.” One, false. Two, this is only the second day I’ve done this coloring activity. C, it’s called a free draw for a reason. I brushed it off. I’ll guide their drawings when I want to guide their drawings.

The counselor left. I watched them draw for a bit; then decided to make a puppet out of paper, like my roommate had shown me to night before. I decorated it. The two young girls (aged 5 and 6) who live at the home watched me with fascination. I then pretended to gobble the little girls’ fingers in my puppet's mouth. They squealed in delight. They wanted puppets of their own, so I folded them and allowed them to color them. I had been with the clients for about 25 minutes when I was pulled away to do more computer work. I was reluctant to leave their presence. I left the crayons and paper with them, since they had practically no time at all to color.

I wasn’t able to go back to them until 5, which is when I must leave. They had stacked the papers and crayons neatly on top of their TV, which they’re allowed to watch from 5:30-6 everyday. As I took the papers, a chorus of “Thank you, Miss!” warmed my heart. 

“You are so very welcome, my dears.” One client, who had passed on the first free draw I led on Tuesday, came up to me.

“Thank you, Miss! Thank you, so much,” she beamed. “This morning, I sat, sat, sat and was bored, bored, bored. My back hurt and I had pain. But then you come this afternoon and we draw and I am so happy, Miss. Thank you! I am so happy, Miss. Thank you!

“I am so happy that you’re happy,” Understatement of the century, my heart was about to explode from ineffable joy!

I was so hesitant about spending time with the clients this morning – how could I have been so silly? I was beaming as I walked from their room. My heart was light. How could I have hesitated at the opportunity to make their days just a little bit better?

I feel so re-invigorated with a passion to bring something new and exciting for them to do each day. I hope to watch them grow over the next few months, teach them, learn from them, have them teach me, and grow together with them. I am not afraid to spend time with them anymore, I have my Book – I’m not at a loss of things to do. Will everyday feel as rewarding as this? Highly unlikely; I’m going to be stretched and some days will be hard. But I have this nugget of bright joy to carry with me. These are the moments I live my life for.

Other mentionable things that happened today:

On the train ride home, I was standing by the open door of the train looking out at the city scape as we zoomed by. We passed by a stopped train and a man leaning out of it landed his eyes on me. Instead, of giving me a peculiar stare, he waved and smiled at me. I beamed and waved back. Thank you for acknowledging me as another human being, sir, instead of staring strangely at me. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Also on my train ride, I spotted a cow. Nothing unusual, right? Well, this cow, instead of having large patches of black or brown, looked as if God had splatter painted her with black spots. She really looked like a modern painting. It was beautiful.

I ate lunch with three ducks today and shared my lemon rice with them. Their names are Sophie, Alice, and Mr. Wimbledon. Sophie is a white little duck with a limp in her waddle. Alice whines and begs me for more lemon rice. Mr. Wimbledon hovers in the background and only reaches for the rice I drop in spoonfuls, instead of grains here or there.

I feel truly blessed by my surroundings. Thank you, India, for helping to bring joy into my life today. 


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