In a lot of ways, Nikhil is exactly what I expected him to be. On his sponsor card, he is cute kid with a huge smile and is described as “excellent in his studies,” “well behaved,” and, my favorite, having a “heart to respect his teachers.” You can tell from his picture that he not likely to talk your ear off. There is a sweetness in his expression that makes you imagine a kind and introspective boy who doesn’t do a lot of rough housing.
On our first day at Madanpur Khader, I didn’t see Nikhil. It was on our second visit to third grade class that I spotted him. I got to tell the children that if God clothes the flowers with more splendor than a king that he’ll surely provide everything we need. We were making tissue paper flowers as a reminder. As I knelt to help some children near the front of the room, I heard one of the people on my team say his name. Looking up, I couldn’t miss him—beanie pulled down to his eyebrows and sitting next to a taller girl, working intently on his flower.
I made my way over and explained that I was his friend from America and asked if he remembered getting my letter. He didn’t J. He kept glancing shyly at his seatmates who were much more ready to talk with me than he was. I explained that I was going to visit him at home in a few days and asked if that was ok. With his eyes glued to his flower, he nodded. I learned that his favorite color is yellow and that he isn’t an only child like it says on his card and that he actually has two sisters.
A few days later, we were back at Madanpur Khader to do a skit with the kids. When Nikhil’s class filed out, I called his name and said hello. It was one of the highlights of my week when I got a real smile in return. I also got to see he was never far from his best friend when they weren’t seated in the classroom. It was so sweet to see them walk arm in arm together.
Later that day, I got to visit his home. It was like much like the others in the community. One room with a huge wooden slab that served as couch, dining table, and family bed and concrete walls. Nikhil’s home was a great example of the crazy juxtapositions that come up in developing nations and among the poorest of the poor—their family of five lives in a single room without running water but had a computer that was logged onto facebook when we were there.
It was wonderful to meet his gentle mother and two precious older sisters. His mother seemed as shy as Nikhil even if there hadn’t been a language barrier between us. His two older sisters were much more outgoing. I was excited to hear that they are both students as well. His oldest sister is actually studying the same subject as my college aged daughter. She insisted on a picture with just the two of us before we left.
I really underestimated what it would mean to meet Nikhil. Don’t get me wrong–I expected it to be really neat to be introduced to a flesh and blood person. But it was more than that. I think the main thing that changed for me after meeting Nikhil is considering and praying for him not merely as an individual but as a son, a brother, and a friend. I feel a connection to him and to his siblings my previous information told me didn’t exist. I want him to grow up to realize all the promise of his gentle spirit and studious nature in a deeper way. I want his sisters to lead change for their nation and for women in particular as they pursue their careers. I want Nikhil’s life and work and marriage and children to be forever changed because of the excellent education and kindness he received from the Good Samaritan School. I want his family to meet a God who loves them more than they can imagine. And for my part, I definitely want to visit him and his family again!
PS Find out more and get involved at http://www.hopechest.org/india/