In college, I once said, “I don’t know why anyone would live along an active fault line. I’ll never do it;” or something to that effect. For the first two or three years living here in Nepal, I fretted obsessively over the “big one” that was predicted and increasingly overdue. So when it hit and we all survived, it was initially a great relief. I don’t believe I was the only one to feel this. With the whole neighborhood gathered into a field by our home, a festive, celebratory atmosphere reigned. The constant large aftershocks, along with the progressively harrowing news spilling from the radio, washed away the happiness, leaving many people anxious and adrift within a sea of powerlessness. The shockwaves of the earthquake rippled deep into the psychology and spirituality of all who survived–rearranging priorities, and sense of purpose. A friend of mine noted just the other day that survivors of great widespread tragedy in retrospect often state that such times were in some respects extremely happy times because grudges are dropped, petty pursuits slough away, and communities bind together in love. I definitely sensed this within the neighborhood, and, indeed, it was a special and good time in respect to genuine community and human love.
We went nearly daily for a total of sixteen trips that spanned an area of 200 kilometers east to west; each trip hauling more rice, pulses, instant noodles, crackers, salt, soy protein, and tarps. We scrounged and scoured the city for tarps, on one occasion, even begging for, and being given, a plastic advertisement stretched over a billboard. Shovha was particularly good at finding connections. Friends of ours also began giving what they could–cash, foodstuffs and tarps. More than food, the villagers were desperate for tarps.
What a gift and joy it is to me I am able to spend this vastly important time with my family, serving their country men, women and children in a time of dire need. I could not have imagined a better crowning experience than to work together to help others.
So, though there was tragedy, there grew from it a tremendously happy experience, like a strong tree rising up from decay. It is my deepest prayer that our children thrive; and I think I see this happening; and it is the greatest joy. I see the generosity of our children. I see how people notice that there is something special about them. They are elected to be leaders in their classes, teams and extra activities. They are given special privileges by their employers with explanation that it is reward for good work and trustworthiness. They choose well their romantic partners. They are using their talents and time to do good.
Are all of them doing fantastically? No; of course not. Some are struggling to find themselves and their place in a confusing world. But for all they’ve been through, they are shining brightly. And because of this, I am made glad to have lived through a war, and through an earthquake and to have suffered the stress of the first few years here in Nepal that made me feel as if my spirit had been plunged into a vat of acid and I was simply not going to make it. Indeed, I did not make it. I am not the same man I once was. And that is OK because when I look in their hearts, the hearts of Shovha’s and my children, I see love. And that is enough. That is more than enough.