We need to be sensitive to those abandoned and give them back their belief in themselves.
One of the attractiveness of the ahimsa way of life is that it offers us a wholesome, harmonious way of life in which we are connected to those around us, which enhances individual and community life. Most of us are at our best whe n we feel a sense of belonging with shared values and caring ways. And usually it is our families who give us this deep feeling of belonging and being connected to one another. When we disconnect someone from our lives, because of anger, pride or clashing egos, we break this feeling. Abandoning someone whom we love, or who loves us, or who is dependent on us is an act of himsa.
An elderly lady in an old people’s home writes, “I was only a trained teacher and my husband, a postman. We grew up in very poor homes and our parents could not educate us. So with great difficulty we sacrificed much, educated our children and helped them find careers in which they could shine. But over the years, after they married and had their own families, we became less and less important. We both had our pensions and did not expect any financial help from them, just the joy of being grandparents and rejoicing in our children’s wellbeing. After the death of my husband, the children abandoned me completely. They misinterpreted my grief for lunacy and my forgetfulness for Alzeihmer’s. Now I have been committed to this home without my consent. They say I am mentally unfit to be alone, although I am quite healthy, active. Yes, I am forgetful, but in my eighties surely that is to be expected. I still own my home, and my garden, but I find myself in a small room with just two beds and a stranger as a companion. I miss my garden and all that greenery and pretty flowers. How could my children do this to me?”
Tearing at the soul
Abandoning someone like this is an act of violence. Being abandoned is a feeling which tears at one’s soul. The pain is deep and raw. “Why? Why?” we keep asking ourselves. “Where did I go wrong? What could I have done differently? Why is he/ she not returning my love? Why have I been dumped like this?” Today many parents find themselves being abandoned by children they once raised with great care and love. A busy lifestyle where only “I and my family” matter, a great love of money and material comforts “ for us alone”, impatience and disrespect towards parents who come from the old culture makes it easy for children to abandon their parents with ease and no conscience.
What is it that drives us to be so violent when we know that someone is so vulnerable? Why do we use, abuse and cast away people who have once mattered to us? How can we live with such violence? The truth is that we cannot. For, this kind of violence eats away at our self esteem, and creates a great sense of fear. Fear of being isolated and forgotten; fear of not being important to anyone. The loneliness that comes from being abandoned is an aloneness that is imposed on us by someone else, and not of our choice. “Being left” cuts deeply to the core of our being.
We need ahimsa people to give back the sense of security and lost love. We need to give the abandoned person the courage to go on believing in life and in their own capacity for love. The earliest emotional needs we have are to attach, to bond, to feel secure. These needs stay with us till we die. And unless we bring healing to those who are abandoned, wounds will remain raw and painful and we will have many in our families and workplaces who carry heavy burdens. Such people can be like dynamite and explode with equal violence in certain situations.
Sadagopan was a young, badly deformed leprosy patient who had been abandoned by his family when his disease was discovered. As a young man, he came to Dr. Paul Brand, the famous leprosy surgeon, hoping to have reconstructive surgery. Through their many interactions, a special friendship developed between them. Dr. Brand always felt that the surgery he did on Sadagopan was a failure. But Sadogpan would not accept it as a failure. “You gave me life,” he said, “You gave me the courage to live life normally, you encouraged me to get married and have a family, you made me proud to be a man. That is not a failure.” This is what ahimsa people do — they give life, love, self esteem and security to those who are abandoned.
There are many in homes for the aged, orphanages and teenage hostels who are abandoned by their families. What can an ahimsa-based society do for them? How can we give them the security and love they have lost or perhaps never had? How do we build self esteem in people who have none and think of themselves as worthless? These are things which we, who have not been abandoned, and who are loved and have the security and comfort of love need to think about. We need to be sensitive to those who are abandoned and listen to their stories of pain.
If you follow the ahimsa way of life and wish to share your story, please write to the author at www.ushajesudasan.com or firstname.lastname@example.org