I am left-handed. When I travel to India, that can be a bit of a challenge. In many middle-eastern countries, the left hand is used for hygiene; using it for anything else is just not done. Don’t eat with it. Don’t touch people with it.
But I’m really left-handed so that’s a challenge for me.
Last year, I went to India for the fourth time. For a couple of days we visited in a home for the poorest of the poor. We took nail polish with us. We were going to give the women a treat by painting their nails. I’m not a nail painter in my own world; I’m really not a nail painter in a right-handed world. This was way outside my comfort zone but I am a team player, so if nail painting is the task I’ll do my best.
The first day, I noticed some of the other team members pretty quickly gathered crowds. Women were all around them, waiting to get their nails painted. I on the other hand (no pun intended) had hardly anyone around me. It took most of that day for me to get it that it was because I’m left-handed. I simply can’t paint nails with my right hand.
That second day, the first person whose nails I painted wanted to know why I was using my left hand. She wasn’t speaking English, but through gestures and facial expressions she made her point. At first — I’ll be honest — I was a bit defensive. This person who had lice in her hair, who smelled of urine, who was in an indigent care home, found my left hand unsettling. In fact, when I told her I couldn’t use my right hand, she wanted someone else to do her nails.
That little exchange got me thinking: How often do I decide someone is “less than” or “not as good as,” simply because they aren’t like me?
After that, I gave up painting nails. Instead, I began circulating through the women, praying for them. And now that I was inside my comfort zone, I began to see Jesus. I saw him and heard him. I would pray, “Lord, be present to this person today,” and I would hear, “I am present. You are there.” I would pray, “Lord, surround this person with your angels,” and I would hear, “I have. I sent you.”
I sang with some women and taught them songs. I danced with a woman who loved to dance. I sat with one woman for quite a while and she took my hand and rubbed it while she talked and I listened. I couldn’t understand her but I could be present. That seemed enough.
After a while another woman came over and sat with us. She was very old. She balled up part of her sari and leaned it against my leg like a pillow. Then she put her head there and closed her eyes. The other woman put her head in my lap. While these women rested on me, the Lord spoke.
“This is what intimacy looks like.”
And I thanked God I am left-handed and for the gift of that moment.
(This blog is reposted as I remember our blessed trip to India a year ago.)