Our friend Cornelia works with the widows that live in a desperately poor corner of Kolkata. It’s a place no one wants to live. It’s a place very few want to visit. But she visits them in their tarp-covered shanties and their rickety, ramshackle shacks. They’re often hungry; she brings them food. They’re perpetually voiceless; she listens to their troubles. They are unschooled, so she teaches them, things both practical and spiritual. They are the very least of the lowest; Cornelia lifts them up. They are those no one would call their own; she calls them each by their name. They are her flock, and she leads them with the loving care of a good shepherd. In a land of a million gods, they have learned of one Hinduism does not—cannot—claim. They call him Cornelia’s god; we call Him Jesus.
Poverty is a punishing grind. In India, the poor are despised from birth for things outside of their control, like the cruelty of the caste system, like karma, like the string of genetic code locked deep within your cells that makes you a woman. And though it is the only life some have ever known, sometimes it just becomes too much. A spirit is crushed. Hope is shattered. The will to carry on, drained degree by painful degree, is finally gone. There’s nothing left. The white flag is raised and she lays down to die.
That widow, that day, laid down in the dirt of the street. It was literally the gutter of the gutter. She was tired of the fight. Tired of what it took to survive another day only to choke anew on the same old lie: you are worth less than the dirt you lie in. It was the drumbeat that filled her every waking moment for as long as she could remember. It was the message of the universe droning on, bearing down, on her kind. She just wanted to rest. To eat and to rest. And so that widow closed her eyes. Poisoned by the bitter bile that said it did not matter if she lived or died, she closed her eyes, and finally believed it.
Soon she was not alone. Someone was waking her. She fought through shrouds of consciousness to find a man kneeling in the dirt to gently raise her to her feet. Cool and calm, he was dressed as a gentleman in crisp white linen. He smiled at her, whispered her name, and pressed a small bag of coins into her hand. “Hold these,” he said kindly. She accepted the bag with confusion and watched as he melted into the crowd moving along the busy street. The coins jingled in the bag. The bag weighed heavy in her hand. Her hand moved to cover her heart. Her heart quickened to the truth. The truth cut down the lie once and for all. Her confusion melted away. She didn’t wonder who he was. She knew without doubt who he was. The man who saw her in the dirt, the man who went down into the gutter to lift her up, the man who knew her name, the man who met her need with a bag of coins, not bills she could be accused of stealing…. She had met the one they call Cornelia’s God.
We call Him Jesus.
If you would like to help Cornelia in her work by supporting a widow, you can do so through Global Sharing. It costs just $30/month to adopt a widow and ensure she is fed every month! Click here to give today (categories/funds --> ministry projects --> India Widow Support). Thank you!