Open hands to open eyes. The title of my blog as well as my first photo album documenting my journey in India this summer. With just two weeks of experience to draw from, I can tell you that I thought of this title because it best summed up my journey so far, and I have no doubt that it will apply to much of my time here. In my mind this phrase has several meanings, none of which stands on its own.
Open hands are for giving. Open hands are for taking. A young boy with dirt on his face and a snotty baby on his hip reaches with an open hand, wanting food, pointing to the baby saying, “sister, sister.” Open hands reach out to offer unwanted leftovers of American corn, bought simply to quell the whines of a well-fed but overly tired, antsy child.
Open hands display fruit, shoes, maps, jewelry, purses, vegetables, and mini plastic bicycles, asking, Madam? For you, only 300. Open hands glide over piles of fabric, searching for exactly the right weight and texture of 100% cotton.
Open hands seek one another as children cross the street, as foreigners meet wonderfully hospitable host families, as a friend consoles another who has fallen on hard times. Open hands lend themselves to others to help them pick up and put together the pieces to get back on their feet. Open hands are for praise and celebration. For me, open hands mean all of these things.
Open eyes squint at the flourish of dust created by an old woman sweeping trash aside on the street. Open eyes strain to take in the sight of colorful clothing, walls, produce, and fabrics that line every inch of my surroundings. Open eyes quickly scan fabrics for the perfect pattern.
Open eyes search the darkness, restless from jet lag.
Open eyes are glued to the screen as they take in their first Bollywood movie without subtitles. Open eyes search the faces of foreigners for understanding when the language barrier threatens to overwhelm all parties with frustration. Open eyes mind the auto meter and scan the streets to ensure a timely arrival to their destination. It is because I have open eyes that I can experience all of these things, but it is not always easy to keep hands and eyes open.
I thought of Open Hands to Open Eyes because I realized that these two things come together more often than not. Because I have never been to anywhere like India before, I knew from the beginning that I would need to constantly remind myself to be flexible and open to things that I may have never experienced before, things that may excite, surprise, or horrify me. Of course this was much harder than I could’ve even imagined. I had to fight the urge to bring my hands to cover my eyes several times, whether it was the sensory overload that is shopping and walking the streets of Bangalore or the overwhelming guilt and sadness felt seeing adults and children alike begging on the street. Reality sometimes threatens to bring my open hands to cover my eyes to shield me from what I think I can’t handle. Of course you learn to manage and to open your hands to give when you can, which, in turn, opens your eyes to a more in-depth view into the lives of others and a broader view on the spectrum of humanity. Using my hands, and my experience, taking an active role in improving the quality of others’ lives, I hope to gain this perspective and to continue having my eyes and hands open to give and take from these two months and my work with Profugo.