Yes I confess it. That was my 10 year old dream. It might sound a little crazy to the average American, but when you understand my why, it’s not so ridiculous at all.
When anyone asked me what I’d wanted to be when I grew up back in the 90’s, I shamelessly smiled and explained my dream, a dream which I can find in more than one old journal entry.
…To live in India with a dozen kids, swathed in verdant greens and golds, my hair bound into a long braid swinging behind me and walking. Walking a mile or two as a family, as a community, possibly both. Walking along a dirt path to market…Somehow I know that living in this dusty way will bring me closer to the real things in life like God and people and nature…
My childhood dream was to be barefoot, to be as close to nature as possible, and yes, to be a bit dusty. To wear skirts all day long, and to have laughing children all around. I imagined bungalows with thatched roofs (ones that snakes could not penetrate). I saw our family baking our own bread and the lot of us grouped around enormous kettles of savory stew. In my mind, living close to the earth and being poor were equivalent with experiencing joy. My 10 year old mind was afraid of wealth and of having luxuries. My fears were that I would lose an appreciation for the real things in my life, specifically just enjoying people, learning from them, talking to them, relating. To me everything from the TV to the microwave to the shoelace somehow put distance between a person and his ability to experience the personhood of someone else.
Ironically, my young self imagined a place for my future which itself wasn’t real. My India consisted of a pre-Secret Garden world, run by British. My India was mostly patched together from snippets of my well-loved National Geographic magazines which I wanted to see and from stories our church missionaries shared while on sabbatical that I pondered over night after night.
All that time I knew next to nothing about the true state of India, its population, its population crisis, the impoverished, the malnourished, its dangerously sick, its mortality rate, and certainly nothing about its flip side–the wealthy, the highly educated, the booming and decadent Bollywood. What’s more, everything deeper pertaining to culture, legend, myth, tale and lore, faith, fantasy, language and history were just that, words on pages in books in libraries, things to be read and digested but beyond tasting, feeling, or touching for sure.
Yes, I thought I’d be in India by now.
Yes, the place I used to dream of isn’t quite even real.
But it’s fair to say I’m now in a place to learn some things from my childhood about appreciating beauty in the small things, the real things.
Things like the four pairs of eyes that stare up at me and ask me if the bugs are going to eat them when we go outside.
Things like making bread no matter how many times it takes until it rises and sets and is edible and enjoying the process.
Things like trying to grow something from the ground and marveling together how cool death and rebirth is by watching the seed become a flower.
Things like hand-writing a letter to someone or enjoying a hand-drawn picture from a friend.
Things like walking to the park rather than driving and enjoying these things called legs.
Things like watching the worms “run slowly” as the kids put it, across sidewalks and driveways.
Things like listening to the radio during lunch to hear the news for a change (rather than scrolling through it or watching it on TV) and then chatting about it with a friend.
There are no shortage of things that we can do together and individually to get closer to the real things in life. What I know now that I didn’t quite get as a 10 year old is that I don’t actually have to go to India to get close to them.
So despite the lack of Hindi in my head and despite the presence of shoes on my feet, I am finding ways all the time to stay barefoot, to get a little bit dusty and to bask in those first bits of humidity in the Nashville spring. And through all of that to enjoy so many of the very real things in my life.