Friday, 19 September 2014

7QT: Courtship, Wars and Links

I haven't written for my blog in too long.

It's a busy life.

Anyway, down to business.

---1---

New favourite website: What If?

You know how sometimes your mind just gets caught wondering about an impossible situations? Have no fear, your questions may be answered. No matter how ridiculous.

If you call a random phone number and say “God bless you”, what are the chances that the person who answers just sneezed?

(Don't click if you're supposed to be working, and not wasting time on the Internet.)

---2---

I have often been annoyed when people say 'God loves me' when things go their way. (Even though I do it sometimes too.) Or if they get a parking spot and they say "It was all the Lord." So if you HADN'T found a parking spot, it was the devil? Who controls these things?

Things sometimes work out the way you hope they will, and sometimes they don't, and that happens to those who know and love God, and those who profess no faith at all. And yet I DO believe that God answers prayers, God shows us His love in practical and tangible ways very often. I've experienced it myself, too often for it to be coincidence.

So when Simcha Fisher addressed this, I knew I wanted to share her article:

Why I Don't Say "I'm Blessed"

(Although I DO say I'm blessed... even when I don't like my 'blessings'. It's all out of love.)

---3---

I'm kind of freaking out that I knew almost nothing about the Indo-Pakistan war of 1972 until last night. Well, I knew vaguely that India and Pakistan had fought, but had never thought of when and why. Then a few months ago I read Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie, which is about the period after India's Independence... and whoah! I read about Pakistan (then West Pakistan) invading (now) Bangladesh, about the rape and murder, the genocide, and I thought 'Could this be fiction?'



Then last night I looked it up: Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. And it's all true! It all happened! Pakistan tore apart Bangladesh, and India stepped in to help. The international community turned a blind eye.

General Tikka Khan earned the nickname 'Butcher of Bengal' due to the widespread atrocities he committed. General Niazi commenting on his actions noted 'On the night between 25/26 March 1971 General Tikka struck. Peaceful night was turned into a time of wailing, crying and burning. General Tikka let loose everything at his disposal as if raiding an enemy, not dealing with his own misguided and misled people. The military action was a display of stark cruelty more merciless than the massacres at Bukhara and Baghdad by Chengiz Khan and Halaku Khan... General Tikka... resorted to the killing of civilians and a scorched earth policy. His orders to his troops were: 'I want the land not the people...' Major General Farman had written in his table diary, "Green land of East Pakistan will be painted red". It was painted red by Bengali blood.'

Millions of refugees poured into India. When I visited Kolkata, I saw how poor and underdeveloped the city was. Part of the reason was the thousands of penniless refugees who flooded the country at that time. My great uncle who was a priest then and Mother Teresa worked with the refugees.

Did I not learn this in school? Was it not said in a way that I understood? This is a part of India's recent history! I should have known!

---4---

Someone recently emailed me this article:

Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed

She sent it to me because I am pro-courtship, and she wanted my opinion. I started reading it somewhat defensively, like anyone would while preparing for a pet idea to be attacked. But by the time I reached the end, I realized we were on the same side, we just use different labels for the same ideas.

Basically the theory of courtship that I believe does not exclude 'low-stakes dating'. That means, go ahead and go out for coffee with guys who ask you out on a date. (We call it the acquaintance stage.) It doesn't mean you have just promised to grow old with them. Go out for coffee with multiple guys!


BUT I am still against long-term intense dating relationships with one person... which are not headed towards marriage (preferably sooner than later.) Those seem to play at marriage without the long term commitment, which has so many potential negative consequences.

I think that the 'courtship' that the author refers to is something very different than we understand it, and starts a lot earlier. That's probably why the parents are so heavily involved. My theory is 'If marriage is not something realistic for years to come, don't date yet.'

Of course all this is just theoretical, because India's still caught between arranged marriage and love marriages (which usually seem to follow long-term intense dating relationships), and no one's talking about courtship OR low stakes dating yet.

Leah Libresco writes more about it in her article 'Why is it easier to ask out strangers than friends'.

---5---

Remember how this was supposed to be 'quick' takes? Oops, sorry.

Here's a recipe that I just made, and loved, so I want to make it every day! (But won't because who has time to cook everyday?)

Cauliflower Dum Masala

2 cauliflowers (broken into pieces and par-boiled)
2 pureed onions
2 tsp ginger garlic paste
4 chopped tomatoes
turmeric powder
chilli powder
curd
chopped fresh coriander
sliced boiled eggs
sugar
salt

Fry the onions, ginger garlic paste and spices well, then add the tomato, and then the cauliflower. Mix with curd (seasoned with sugar and salt), and garnish with eggs and corinader.

Yum!

(If only I had taken a picture. Oh well, next time.)

---6---

(Am I only on 6??)

For married couples.. I liked this:

5 Things We are Getting Right in our Marriage

---7---

It was teachers' day in India a few weeks ago. At the programme the kids organized in our tuition room in the slum, one of my twelve year old students read this speech she had written.

Good evening one and all,

Today at teachers day I, Karuna from Std VIIth want to say few words.

First of all I want to wish all the teachers a very happy teachers day. Till ow which-ever tution changed I did not get a tution and teachers like you all. In my school also there is no teacher like you all who encourges us, appreciate us in little-little things.

As you all know that I am a newcomer in this tution so I wanted to give you this surprise and I hope that you will like it.

You all teachers are the bestest teacher that I have ever seen, who never beat children, who never scold children, the talk polielty with us. I want to say thank you for your all encorages. Once again a Happy Teachers Day to all the teachers. Thank you.

Makes it all worth it, right, teachers?

More quick takes at Jen's.


Monday, 18 August 2014

7QT:Catholic-Protestant Interactions and Thoughts

Aren't you so excited that I'm going to touch such a sensitive topic? Well, it's one that I think about a lot, so you just get to get into my head a little today. Something that people around me LOVE to do. (Not.)

----1----

I very rarely find a balanced approach to ecumenism in the Catholic world. Either it's the obsessed  crazy focused Catholics who are so convicted of the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith that they can't believe that there's anything good outside of it, who seem defensive, or offensive when anything 'Christian, not Catholic' is mentioned, who see the Protestant as 'the other'. Or it's the people who aren't too jazzed about the Catholic faith itself, or don't know that much, who are all like 'Nothing matters, in the end we should all do the best we can, there's no real difference between Catholic and Protestant belief', etc. Even though I leaned toward the first half for many years, I've reached a place where I KNOW that neither extreme reflects the truth or the beauty of God's love and plan for His people.

And so I feel sad when I hear of a prominent Catholic speaker who comes to speak at my parish and does some Protestant- bashing. Or when Catholics take offence at the phrase 'personal relationship with Jesus' because it sounds too Protestant'. What?

----2----

I know that one of the problems is that people's opinions are so much influenced by their personal experiences and interactions. If you've constantly been mocked by Protestants for being Catholic, I can understand being defensive about it. And if you've been put down in Catholic school for being Protestant, well, duh. And of you've never discovered the truth and beauty of Church teaching, of course you feel 'What's the big deal?'

Here's one of the truest and loving-est lines about ecumenism I've heard- 'There's far more that unites us than divides us.'

Ah ha. Quite the shocker for Catholics and non-Catholic Christians, both.

----3----

Pope Francis seems to be quite the example of how to relate to Protestants, in so many different instances:

\


---4---

In my own experiences, I have been getting many opportunities to work at Christian unity.

For example, a few days ago, I preached at a Protestant church.

!!!!!

Yeah, that probably sounds cooler than it was. We actually spoke to the youth of the church for an event on Indian Independence Day, but several pastors were present. I was surprised at their openness to having my team (as Catholics) speak, since many Protestants too have misconceptions about Catholics, and find it hard to believe that we are 'real' Christians. But it was so cool- I spoke on 'Freedom in Christ', and quoted JP2, and we were completely united on everything I shared! There were quite a few 'Amens' during the talk, not something I hear often when I speak to Catholics. :-)

----5----

Growing up with the charismatic renewal has definitely helped with being comfortable with Protestants. I can imagine many Catholics stiff with discomfort at the vocal praise, the music style, the preaching. But for me, it felt like a prayer meeting (which is not surprising since the Charismatic renewal started in Protestant churches), which made it easier to relate to them as brothers and sisters.

I remember one of my friends telling me after I attended a charismatic prayer meeting, something to the effect of "It's more Catholic to pray silently in Adoration, more like Mary." And I retorted "How many times does it say in the psalms 'Shout to the Lord'?" There are so many instances where the Jewish people sang and danced and shouted to God. How often do we Catholics do that? And let's not get into Acts 2 and 'tongues' which I'm sure most Catholics would be happy to vote out of the bible, which thankfully Catholics don't do. (You see how I'm digging at both Catholics and Protestants? Now that's the spirit of ecumenism. Not really.)

----6----

Favourite person to hear talking about ecumenism is Dr. Peter Kreeft. Some 'Ouch/aha' quotes from him:

Why should God let Protestants become Catholics when many Protestants, perhaps most, already know Christ more intimately and personally than many Catholics, perhaps most! How can God lead Protestants home to the fullness of faith in the Catholic Church until the Catholic Church becomes that fullness that they knew as Protestants plus more, not any less! 

When Catholics know Christ better than Protestants do, when Catholics are better Protestants than Protestants, then Protestants will become Catholics in order to become better Protestants! When Catholics are evangelized, Protestants will be sacramentalized. But not before! Evangelizing comes first.

Read the rest of the article/transcript:  Ecumenism without Compromise by Dr. Peter Kreeft or listen to the audio. (P.s. He's really easy to listen to.)

----7----

And just because memes make great addition to blog posts, here you go:



Over to Jen's for more quick takes.

(Oops, looks like posting Seven Quick Takes Friday on a Monday is not acceptable, link up closed. Guess I'll just link it next Friday.)

Monday, 11 August 2014

What Makes You Beautiful

Can you believe that I'm writing about One Direction? Better believe it, baby. I listened to this song and it echoed in my dreams as I took a nap this afternoon, and then sang it non stop while riding my bike on the streets of Pune today... all preparation for this blog post. The sacrifices of writing.

So first listen to the song....


Doesn't it make you want to be a 16 year old boy in a boy band? Or is that just me? Okay, moving on.

So there's some stuff that I think is true, and then there are some lines that don't ring true for me. And because I can, I'm going to write about it on my blog.

So, first the lies.

You're insecure... blah blah blah... that's what makes you beautiful. You don't know you're beautiful... that's what makes you beautiful.

Wait, being insecure makes you beautiful? Girls who have a bad self-image are more beautiful? Well, there's truth and lies all mixed up in that song.

Being insecure does not make you beautiful. Thinking you're ugly does not turn on the Beauty Switch. Usually, quite the opposite. I've seen many pretty girls who DON'T believe that they are, who keep comparing themselves to others and never measure up. And it shows.

What does make someone beautiful? It's all rather confusing. But here's what I think (you don't have to wait long to hear what I think.)

I think when a woman KNOWS that she's beautiful... she looks beautiful. When there is beauty within, she taps into that and it flows to the outside. But then of course I also think knowing you're beautiful is connected with knowing you're loved. When you know someone loves you, you glow. You KNOW that that person thinks your beautiful... and so you are.

I think about women that I've admired, women who I've thought are beautiful, and not just the first time I see them. They are of different ages. Some wear make up, some don't. Some wear fashionable clothes that fit perfectly, some wear simple but pretty clothes. Some wear heels, some wear slippers. Some wear earrings, some don't. Some are loud and funny, some are quiet and unassuming. What do they have in common?

They usually hold themselves well. They have wonderful posture. They are confident and sure of themselves. They know who they are.

They sparkle with self forgetfulness.

They are joyful.

They are looking outside of themselves.



And that's where the song almost gets it right- the women who are not looking inwards obsessed with their own beauty are truly beautiful. Humility, the best makeup. So women who are cocksure (not the right adjective?), who are aware of their power to charm, and are always ready to use it to manipulate, women who say or feel 'I could get any guy I want', women who are constantly thinking about their own beauty... lose it. And you can often see it in their faces. (Although guys often can't.)

I think all women have the potential for beauty. The more they are themselves, the more beautiful they get. The more they allow Love to soften their hearts, the more they glow. The more they love, the more beauty shapes their face, their eyes, their smiles. And the paradox is that when they allow true Beauty to clothe them, they are not thinking that much about it.

I've seen in myself the fascination with my own beauty. You know, when I look at every mirror I pass when I know I'm looking my best, when I wait impatiently for people to upload photos where I know I look good, when I untag myself in pictures that don't make me look good (of which there are many). What, you don't do that? I've had so many bad hair days, acne-ridden awkward days of my youth, that I value every good hair day (and the wonders of conditioning with coconut oil), and clear skin is a joy to my heart.

Speaking of narcissists

And I don't think that's all bad. Beauty is something to take joy in, whether it's in yourself or someone else, or a sunset, or a baby's perfectly formed features, or a beautiful piece of music.

BUT. When beauty turns one to narcissism, then it sours you on the inside.

I don't want to be insecure, unsure about whether I am really beautiful, self-consciously telling the world through my posture and expression 'Nothing to see here'. Neither do I want to be so full of myself that all I see is ME as I worship at the shrine of my own beauty.

I want to know I'm beautiful, and that I'm loved, and then with that confidence to FORGET ABOUT ME and see the beauty in the people around me and love THEM!

I want to be something like this beautiful woman, who knew who she was and Whose she was:

The Virgin in Prayer, Sassoferato

Friday, 25 July 2014

7QT Friday: Of Mice, Autotune Popes and Household Disasters

 ----1---

First of all, let me make your Friday awesome- Pope Saint John Paul II singing to us... "Perhaps I love you more!" Ahhhh!! Love it so much!




---2---

So you know how much I love mice? (Especially baked ones) Well, after two weeks away from my home, I came back to find that the house had been taken over by a mouse. Just a cute little one. I hardened my heart, tracked down a secret shop in town that sold mouse traps, and set the trap. It was the type that trapped the mouse, didn't kill it. So I caught it, and it squealed and banged at the door and I shuddered and handed it over to one of our guy friends to dispose of it. I forget how soft-hearted all our guy friends are, though. He let it loose and wished it well...

And then the next day, there was another one. Or the same one? I don't know! Operation Trap the Mouse was carried out again... and another guy was enlisted to FINISH IT OFF. Yet another failure a la the hunter in Snow White- the mouse looked up to him with big pleading eyes and his hard heart was softened, as he let it loose even further away from the house.


And guess what turned up in the bedroom AGAIN yesterday? Yes! Yet another mouse. Or the mouse that never died.

The main reason I think it's the same mouse- he's avoiding the mouse trap now (unlike the ants). So yeah. We live with a mouse. AAHHHH!!

---3---

Microcosm of conversations and attitudes and relationship between optimist R and pessimist me:

My room mate R: It could be worse.
Me: It could GET worse.
R: It could be bold and get into our beds. It could be malicious and chew up all our underwear. It could be revengeful and come back with its Super Rat friends.
Me: All these things could still happen.


---4---

To make our life even more fun and exciting, our fridge just died. It was warm and smelled and gross when we came home yesterday. This should not have surprised us at all, because the fridge was donated to us ten months ago. It had a broken freezer door, a tendency to leak and drench all our food with gross fridge water and the door didn't always completely shut. Still, it was disappointing.

However, a friend who is moving to the US in September told us he was donating his fridge to us when he leaves (or perhaps we begged it of him, I don't remember). That is seven weeks away. When R and I were in the Philippines we lived for three months without a fridge.

"If we did it once, we can do it again!" Plus our third room mate BA is all about solidarity with the poor and sacrifices and stuff like that, so I think she might be excited by the challenge. This is my technique for survival sans fridge:
1. Only cook as much as we need to eat for each day. (Which means more cooking)
2. Put milk container or leftovers in a dish of water overnight to prevent it from spoiling (the cool monsoon weather helps)

Yeah, that's all I got.

---5---


The monsoons are here! Can I even tell you how gorgeous the weather is after the oppressive heat of the summer? Sure everyone's complaining about getting wet all the time, getting splashed by rickshaws, mud everywhere, losing umbrellas... But it's cool! Everything's green! Sweaters! Hot tea! Hot showers AND sweaters AND hot tea after getting wet outside! Not to mention, crops growing, no drought, reservoirs filling up, all that good stuff.

---6---

Funny tweet I just saw from @Swag_Catholic:


Ah ha ha ha.

---7---

I've been writing a little more recently. (Not that much more, but still):

Let's Talk About Awkward Hugs

Judgmental People

In Which I Obsess About Books

The End

More Quick Takes at at Svellerella.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

In Which I Obsess About Books

Woman Reading on a Settee by William W. Churchill

Can you believe I've actually been reading books again? Wait, you didn't know that I had stopped. It was part of my struggling with anxiety, feeling overwhelmed with life, messing up on time management and never getting through my to do list (if I was organized to actually put it together) a few months ago.

But over the past month and a half I have been slowing down, allowing myself to relax, saying no to the many extra things that suck my time and mental energy, and making time for some of the things I really want to do -like read books. (Whenever my friend R saw me reading a book, she would be so relieved because it meant I was not struggling with anxiety or tense about my pending work.)

So with no further ado, here's a list of some AWESOME books I have been reading.

The Great Divorce by C.S.Lewis


SO good! Two friends promised me that this was an awesome book, it has been lying in my house for months, and I finally added it to my backpack as I left on a two week trip to the Philippines. I also took two other books, and seeing as this one wasn't a novel, and might have involved using my brain, I left it to the last leg of my return journey, the train back to my city. And then I started reading... and oh boy, it was GOOD. I startled my fellow passengers by laughing aloud, muttering "Oh my goodness, YES!" and mm-hmming as I read. (I'm not even kidding.) Read this book, everyone! 

C.S Lewis speaks TRUTH, and in such a subtle and insightful manner that you have to THINK... but in a good way. According to wikipedia, The Great Divorce is a work of theological fantasy by C. S. Lewis, in which he reflects on the Christian conception of Heaven and Hell. But it's so much more- it makes you think about motives, and excuses, and lies that we tell ourselves and start believing, and the evil that we so comfortably live with. AAHHH. Truth!!!

It also very clearly presents how the concept of Hell works with a loving God:
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done." All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”
“Good beats upon the damned incessantly as sound waves beat on the ears of the deaf, but they cannot receive it. Their fists are clenched, their teeth are clenched, their eyes fast shut. First they will not, in the end they cannot, open their hands for gifts, or their mouth for food, or their eyes to see.”
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd


I think that when I write my book, I would like to write like this. It's REAL. The characters jump out at you. It makes it so much more obvious what bad writing is, when you read good writing. The main character, Lily is not a character, she's a PERSON. She doesn't do, say or think exactly what you expect her to. She's not just a victim, but a human being with faults and temptations and weaknesses, who does stupid or dishonest or hurtful things sometimes, but also does brave and kind and loving things too. She's honest.

The book is about a 14 year old white girl in the American South in the 60s and how to escape an abusive home, she and her black caregiver moves in with three African-American sisters who keep bees. A lot like To Kill a Mockingbird, and something like The Help.

What's interesting about the book for me is the Catholic influence- they're obsessed with a statue of a black Mary, who seems to be a source of strength for them. In many ways I feel like they explained well how Mary loves and helps her children even though she is not God... until the end when it became a new-agey 'Mary is within you'... YOU are the source of your own strength, or something of that sort.

Anyway, great book- read it!

Searching For and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace by Jacques Philippe




As soon as I started reading this tiny book, I wanted to buy a hundred copies and give them to everyone I know. (Wait, I know more than a hundred people.) I feel like this book answers a question that most Christians don't even know they have. I know SO MANY Christians who struggle with anxiety and fear, and think that that is normal. It isn't! God does not want us to be anxious! He GIVES us peace, and asks that we receive it.

There are so many little lies we believe that keep us from accepting that peace: "If this or that circumstance of my life changed, THEN I could be peaceful", "If only I stopped falling into sin", "If only that person wouldn't aggravate me", "Someone I love is suffering so of course I should be troubled"...

But they are lies. And Jacques Philippe explains why, simple and concisely. Tiny book, big impact. Get it- I promise you won't regret it. Everyone whom I've passed it on to has had exactly the same reaction.
"If I am still not able to remain at peace when faced with difficult situations, then it is better that I should begin to strive to keep this peace in the easier situations of everyday life: to quietly and without irritability do my daily chores, to commit myself to doing each thing well in the present moment without preoccupying myself with what follows, to speak peacefully and with gentleness to those around me, to avoid excessive hurry in my gestures and in the way I climb the stairs!"
Okay, that's enough for now. Go read a book!

Have any of you read any of these books? What did you think of them?

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Let's Talk About Awkward Hugs

Why?

Well, because Blimey Cow came out with another video:


And of course, because I am an expert on awkwardness. And hugs.


Can I just be honest and say that I have given my fair share of awkward hugs?

True story: I was playing 'What was your first impression?' with the Americans I work with (what, no one else plays that game?) and BOTH my male team mates said that they remember the awkward moment when they just met me and they didn't know whether they should hug the Indian girl... or what. I KNOW IT'S ME! I give off a 'Well maybe we could hug, but then again let's not, perhaps a side hug, I don't really know, let's go with an awkward 'Heyy!! Welcome to India!' in a warm tone to make up for the fact that I'm not hugging you' vibe.

But let's increase the general potential of hug awkwardness with the different cultural expectations. So Americans just hug. Two arms around you, usually angled with one over the shoulder, one under the opposite arm (just pretend this makes sense), variations allowed based on height, level of tightness and length of hug depending on how close you are.

Most Indians don't do general greeting/goodbye hugs. But Indian CATHOLICS now (Western/Portuguese influence variety). Things are different. You do the handshake plus kiss on both cheeks to other Catholics, especially older aunties and uncles. Or hands placed on shoulders/upper arms along with the kiss on both cheeks. Now the kiss itself isn't usually a real kiss- it's usually a cheek brush. Sometimes it's a cheek bump and then you could have bruises on your face.


In the Philippines, and with some Europeans, you do the kiss on one cheek greeting. Also in the Christian circles I hung out with in the Philippines, we did the one cheek kiss with girls, and wait for it...a SHOULDER PAT for guys. IT'S SO CONFUSING! After spending time with too many different cultures, and throwing in my own special social awkwardness, I mess it up ALL. THE. TIME. I go in for hugs when people aren't offering them, try to shake the hand of people who are trying to hug me, get my nose pressed against people's chests, almost kiss people when we both go for the same side or mess up the one cheek-two cheek thing (someone I know told me 'That's how I got my first kiss'), and get my nose buried in people's hair or ear (same person told me 'Some guy had his nose in my hair during a hug and said 'Garnier?' and I said 'no').


Here's the only three possible options I have come up with to deal with awkward hugs:

1. Comment on the awkwardness: Preferably at the same time as the hug occurs. This will either defuse the awkwardness, or make the hugger plan to avoid you forever, so it's all good.

2. Practice: Embrace the awkwardness. (Ah ha ha ha. I crack me up.) Accept the fact that this happens and hug anyway. And maybe if you keep doing it, you'll come up with an smoother technique. It's like dancing, you know? You're going to look like a fool at the beginning, but eventually grace will take over. (For most people.)

3. Stay the heck away from all potential huggers: Exchange the awkwardness of the hugs with the awkwardness of being the non-hugger. Everybody else lovingly hugs each other goodbye, and you stand off at one side and smile and wave. Or let your arms hang awkwardly to the side and stare gloomily at people while they leave. Whichever. Just be that person.


I'll leave you with this fascinating fact: The word 'awkward' on the blog post draft page appears.. wait for it.. 15 times!

Monday, 14 July 2014

Judgmental People

Have you noticed how judgmental people can get? They know nothing about you, and they just put you in a box and label you. They've decided what you're like before they even say a word to you, and it usually isn't a very flattering analysis. I can't stand people like that.

HAHAHAHAHA JUST KIDDING!!!


Switch the word 'people' with 'I'. Or 'you and I' if we're being honest. We're ALL judgmental. (You see how I made a judgment there?) Fine, I don't know if EVERYBODY is, but a LOT of people are. Including me. (And apparently I CAN stand me.)

I noticed this twice a couple of days ago. I was doing a lot of travelling, and a lot of people watching. A fascinating pastime at airports. People also like to watch my friends and me. No idea why.


On my last flight I was in a plane with a bunch of Indians (that's what happens when you head to Mumbai). In my head I was replaying a time I flew home, about two years ago. I had been away from home, in small towns in the US and the Philippines, for a year and a half, and I had gotten used to courtesy as a way of life. Coming back to a big city in India was a shock as government officials and shopkeepers and the man of the street were abrupt and often bad tempered.

On that flight home in 2011 I was struggling to get my overstuffed backpack out of the overhead compartment. Indian men passed me in the aisle and didn't give my predicament a second glance. In fact they made it even harder by squeezing past me in the narrow aisle. "Hmpphh," I thought, "Indian men." I remembered the extreme friendliness of the Filipinos who would go out of their way to help anyone regardless of whether they were actually in a position to offer any actual help (passersby stopping passersby to give me directions to a place neither of them knew) and the courtesy of many Americans that I had met (strangers waving at me from cars as I was running.. me: "Do I know you?"). Finally in a plane full of Indians, one foreigner stopped to help me with my bag.

This was running through my head as I once again was about to heave my backpack into the overhead bin a few days ago. "Indian men!" Before the thought was completed, two pairs of hands, one from in front of me, one behind, grabbed my bag, and placed it in the bin. Yes, both belonging to Indian men. Not even a moment's hesitation, or a pause to receive my gratitude or thanks, just like it was a normal part of life... which I guess it was.

The other incident was the next day in Mumbai. I was attending evening Mass alone. I was in the wealthier part of Mumbai, in an old church. As I 'prayed' I was looking at the backs of several middle aged and older men and women (mostly women) who were attending a weekday evening Mass. Fresh from a conversation with an aunt who attended that parish where she told me about people who judged her because she didn't wear a head covering in church, and people who walked barefoot to the tabernacle and refused to receive Communion from extraordinary lay ministers, "I would not want to know these people," I thought. So often in our wealthy Catholic parishes, people will not exchange a friendly glance, a stranger could come and go, and no one could care less. Wealthy, more concerned with tradition and rules than love of neighbour, old fashioned, boring. Yes, I got this all from the backs of a few hapless strangers in a church. (Even though none of them were wearing head coverings.)

And then came the time for the sign of peace. Expecting cold nods, straight faces and hurried head bobs, I was shocked out of my judgmental thoughts by not one but three different ladies sitting around me whose faces lit up in beautiful smiles as they folded their open palms and nodded toward me.

Take that, judgmental Sue.

Surprisingly enough, one of the best reminders for me to fight the judgmental streak in me came from Anne of Green Gables, where somewhere someone talks about 'being charitable'. Most of the time, I try to remember to make excuses for people, especially when I don't know the full story, and even when I do.

Maybe the bad tempered clerk is going home to an unhappy marriage. Maybe the guy who just cut the light is on his way to the hospital because his daughter had an accident. Maybe the girl who just refuses to smile back at me struggles with her own self worth and identity. Maybe the guy who makes cutting comments has faced cutting comments from his parents all his life. Broken people everywhere. Just like me.

It's not that people all have excuses and sin doesn't exist, it's just that *I* am not the one to have to figure out anyone's culpability or motives. And you know, when you believe the best about people, often the best comes out.