Tens of thousands people of all races, backgrounds and homelands make their way to our great country each year looking for a better future. Some years ago, a lower-middle class Indian couple came to California. The husband became a truck driver, working crazy hours, while the wife gave birth to twin girls, and later a boy. They came from a small village of Punjab, India. They ended up in Tracy, California.
The lady did not know English, nor did she know how to drive. The husband made a decent living. In some years, they saved enough to start a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant. The lady had a talent for cooking. She also knew how to sew.
A few years into the recent recession, they lost their business and their home. The husband became so despondent he caved in to mental depression and tried to end his life. He went into a vegetative state, heavily drugged and bed-ridden. The lady was left with no money, no family, three young children, an ailing husband and little ability to communicate, as she only spoke Punjabi.
It was at this point last year that she was introduced to me via my agency by county case workers supervising her food stamp distribution.
Over the past year, through intense interaction, one-on-one counseling and daily conversations while she performs janitorial services for our agency, the lady now drives her own car, goes to school, speaks more English, take her kids to soccer games, and offers her services to cook and clean in her community. After a year of rehabilitation, her husband is working as a cook and takes regular medication to keep his depression at bay.
While our economic downfall has caused many to lose their homes and business, there are positive aspects of the system that help people. Even if the help is nominal and temporary, giving a hungry man some fish, but more importantly a fishing rod, makes it possible for the individual to bounce back. Many succumb, but some persevere.
The odds are against an illiterate Indian woman making it through foreclosure, bankruptcy and an ailing husband. Her story could be anyone’s story.
I learned long ago, working in Third World villages, to never write off a human being, no matter how desperate their situation. It is a lesson I practice daily. People suffering can take the tide to either rise or fall — sometimes all it takes to make a difference between life and death is a friendly nudge by someone who cares enough to lend a hand.
In order to change the world, you must believe in the possibility of change. In order to bring about change, you need to practice unconditional positive regard for those who cross your path.
There is a story about Mother Teresa, who became despondent at the enormity of human suffering around her in the leper colonies of India. She composed a query to God asking him to show her the light when there was so much overwhelming darkness.
She did not receive an answer.
A few days later, she returned to work. Asked if God had shown her the light, she replied, “I have learned to love the darkness.”
Only if we take the broken into our arms unconditionally will we find the light. I keep the eyes of my heart and mind open even during times of darkness and struggle. My motto: love, live and let God in.
• Samina Masood has lived in Tracy since 2004 and is among a select group of local Town Crier columnists in the Tracy Press. She is the director of Vinewood Center for Children and Families and has masters degrees in both journalism and clinical psychology.