The results of the climate change of the last years can be seen and felt everywhere on this world. Winters are more cold and records are broken of how much snow has fallen, how cold it was and how many people have died because of this weather. In India, more than 120 people have already died because of the cold this year and most of them in our state, Uttar Pradesh.
Even in nicely built houses there are no facilities for proper heating as it is usually only needed for two to three weeks each year. Nowadays we use electrical heaters to warm up the rooms of the Ashram. But what should people do whose houses are huts of wood and straw? Or those people who sleep in the street, on the stairs of temples, simply on the floor with a blanket because they have no home to go to? The temperature daily drops down until about two degrees centigrade in the night. The government has also declared that all schools will be closed because of the cold. Many schools don’t even have benches or chairs for the children to sit on. This is how the children of our school also don’t have to learn in school these days.
Nevertheless there are always children coming and going at the Ashram and we try to take good care that they pack themselves nicely in winter clothes. However this also is not always as easy as it sounds. We have distributed caps, socks and mufflers among everybody and Christmas presents also consisted of warm pullovers and pants. In this way we have taken care that those children whom we see regularly here have enough clothes not to freeze.
Still however, we constantly see them coming to the Ashram in light clothes, in T-shirts instead of pullovers, without caps and even with bare feet! If you ask them where their warm clothes are, they reply that they are at home or that they lost them. We tell them to search for them and wear them the next time when they come. There are cases however when all attempts are in vain. The shoes or clothes remain lost and so we go and get them another pair of shoes, another cap or whatever went missing. We don’t like to see them shiver and we don’t want them to get a cold, so we either give from clothes that people donated or we spend money to buy them what they need.
You can imagine though, how it feels if the same child comes again the next week – again without shoes! We know that pairs of shoes don’t get lost that easily and we also know the mentality of their parents. They see, if their child does not have shoes, we will provide shoes. So they take the shoes off their children’s feet and send them here, walking on cold sand and cold stone so that they get another pair of shoes from us! And it is not only small children! Even children of up to 13 years old do this, children who could think of wearing their shoes on their own. But they learn from their parents!
We don’t like to see children shivering and freezing but we don’t want to be taken advantage of either. You understand the dilemma we are in and with which we have to cope. So we tell them again and again, we talk to the parents, we bring shoes that are to be worn only at the Ashram and we try to make everybody understand that we will always be giving and giving if they behave honestly, but not if they cheat on us. So I hope, when these children will be grown up, they will realize what we were doing, understand our intention and use the value of honesty in their every day’s life.