Prabath Wickramanayake is a member of the 365give community and loves to share his perspective on giving. His articles always show giving through a different lens and reminds us why giving is so very important. Thank you Prabath for this recent article about his experiences where giving played a prominent role is his travels. It warms my heart to see how a simple give can change perspectives, our emotions and understanding. One simple give, that is all it takes.
Since 2005 to present, I have been able to design and coordinate programs to assist underprivileged communities of Australia, and South & Southeast Asia. My engagements with the rural communities of Sri Lanka, India, Lao, Cambodia and Vietnam from 2007 to 2017 facilitated me to step away from the busy materialistic lifestyle of Melbourne and experience the charm and simple lifestyle of those diversified rural communities.
Every village that I stayed in during this period was extremely picturesque. They were surrounded by paddy fields, rubber plantations, thick forests, mountains, waterfalls, streams and lakes. It was such a joy for me to go for daily walks at dawn and dusk with the locals who would accompany me, to soak up the natural beauties. During my morning walks I was always delighted to meet locals carrying milk bottles or fruits and vegetables from their home-gardens as they were on their way to sell them at the nearest boutique or marketplace to make money for their families.
What a simple way of living.
I am not sure whether they had huge plans or ambitions for their future, but the noticeable aspect common to all the communities was the absence of regular employment or source of income and therefore, day to day living was an endless battle for them.
However, the salient feature of these communities was that they never worried amidst their scarcities. Instead, their inherited great human qualities demonstrated determination, courage, resilience, endurance, contentment and creativity, making the most out of the means available to them.
The other outstanding feature of their communities was their willingness to share all of their possessions for each other’s needs.
As a person with vision impairment, these aspects of their lifestyle touched my heart. In each community that I visited they welcomed me (a stranger with severe vision impairment) with warmth, kindness and generosity and always encouraged me to participate in their community activities. They especially invited me to join their rural traditional games, traditional dance performances and handcraft work, namely, cane basket making, mat and cloth weaving, paper making, lacquer work and farming.
Besides this, they enthusiastically supported me to become familiar and experienced in local traditions, customs and ways of living. I will never forget their gentle, helpful and heartfelt approach towards humanity.
At the outset, an outsider would probably anticipate that a severely vision impaired person spending a considerable amount of time in unaware terrains with unknown people, unfamiliar languages and unfamiliar customs would find it a challenging task.
However, because of their care, generosity and willingness to give, it was easy.
They put aside the language barrier and the physical barrier and they opened up their hearts to me, wrapping me up in a blanket of love and acceptance. They shared everything that they had and they included me in such a way that left me feeling nothing but safe and secure. They did not worry about our differences, instead they embraced me as one of their own and they encouraged me to get involved.
It was so evident that they didn’t hold onto the same mental barriers that most of us westerners do. Generous, open hearted giving was as much a part of their lives as breathing air. And despite their apparent scarcities they were rich with happiness. Their way of life felt so simple and yet so natural. It wasn’t a challenge for me because I too live my life this way. It felt like coming together with a group of likeminded hearts, and that is a powerful thing to experience.
Just like a smile can light up a person’s day, a kind heart can remove barriers that people think are immovable, and the lifestyle that I witnessed within these rural communities is certainly a great testament to that.
Please read Prabath’s article published earlier this year and learn more about his lessons on giving as he travels and engages in new cultures. Thank you Prabath for contributing to 365give!