Walking One Step At A Time With Sahil
Posted by Tim Huang on Oct 5, 2015
Sahil is an inspiring, always-positive 10-year-old boy who has trouble walking because of a bad case of meningitis. He lives in the Ramapir no Tekro slum community across from the Gandhi Ashram. Everyday after volunteering with the library programs at Manav Sadhna’s Community Center in Tekro, I would walk over to Sahil’s home right behind the center and hang out with him for a few hours. When I arrived, his father or mother would help him up from his bed to a small bench they made for him out front of the house. He would greet me with a smile and a calmness that seemed to make all worries go away. Sitting together on the bench, we would chat for a bit and do a variety of fun activities.
On any given day, we would be reading aloud short story books from the Community Center library, making and flying paper airplanes, playing math-based card games with the smile card playing deck (winner has to do the random act of kindness on the last card he puts down), doing arts and crafts with crayons and clay, playing with a Rubik’s cube I got him, and listening to songs from Nimo. And Sahil is just one of those kids that loves to learn. We read through at least a dozen small children’s books together, and every game I taught him he would pick up effortlessly. He’s constantly curious and is willing to try anything new, including doing some basic yoga stretches and writing a thank you card for his Community Center teachers after winning several different smile card games with those kindness instructions on the last card.
Meanwhile, his little sister Mahik, who is only 3 years old and is still learning to walk, would also wobble over to come play with us everyday. She often was curious to see what we were doing. On one afternoon, her mother Neha-bhen gave her some papad, one of her favorite snacks to eat. She immediately came over to me, broke it in half while babbling something, and generously put her little hand out to offer most of it to me. I was really touched. At 3 years old, she’s already practicing kindness – it’s so natural for her. I felt so grateful and humbled in that moment. She has so little, but is willing to share so much. Needless to say, it was some of the most delicious papad I’ve ever eaten. It was in these moments that I saw, despite the material poverty of the slums, there was a great social and spiritual wealth here in Tekro – a wealth of resilience and generosity that has taught me humility.
One day that I will always remember with Sahil is the afternoon we started sharing more deeply about our lives. We were chatting about his day, and I decided to ask him about a memorable day in his life. Without hesitation, he looked me in the eyes and said with the most genuine smile, “everyday.” For a few moments, I sat there speechless, in awe of him. I thought to myself that if I were him - 10 years old, struggling to walk, living in a slum community, and stopped out of school because of a medical condition – I’m not sure I could have said the same, that everyday is a memorable one. When I asked him why he felt this way, he just looked over at his little sister Mahik, who was plopping around with a cute innocence, and I could see in his eyes the deep love he had for her. With a smile on my face, I started to share about how I love my sister too, and how she’s one of the biggest inspirations in my life. He listened deeply and then was silent. We both let that silence be for sometime before we both chuckled a bit as Mahik fell down and got back up with a fearless grin. In that moment of sharing and silence, we connected human-to-human, heart-to-heart across our differences. It felt like we just understood each other as brothers.
Over the last month, I knew I was going to learn a lot from Sahil, but I did not expect that he would be one of my wisest teachers. Sahil can’t physically walk without the support of others, yet he is helping me WALK (witness, accept, love, know thyself, as Nipun-bhai so beautifully puts it) and take one step at a time on my inner journey. I’m so grateful to him and so many of the others I’ve met this last month at Manav Sadhna, ESI, and the Moved by Love community. They have all given me a new conviction to walk my path with humility and to remember that on the way, we can do no great things, only small things with great love.