Thursday, October 8, 2009


Last week I tried chai for the first time. I know, I am way behind the times. And I just recently started branching out from chocolate. Chai is so delicious, no? Spicy and creamy and sweet, just right for fall.

But then, last weekend, Tom and I watched Slumdog Millionaire. Without posting any spoilers for those of you even more behind the times than I when it comes to seeing this film, I will say that I can never drink chai again without thinking of the central character Jamal, the chai wallah.

So, every time now that I want to enjoy a nice cup of chai, I will be reminded of the plight of the poor in India. This, as I purchase a cup of overpriced beverage from a (local or) corporate-run coffee shop. Oh my.

It is quite the dilemma for me. I often wonder if I really should be off in a third world country, or inner-city or poor-rural America for that matter, helping others less fortunate than I. At least when I was teaching I felt good about giving of myself to my students, some of whom came from struggling families. Now what?

I do go in for the "think globally, act locally" mantra. I do. It comes to mind quite often. Buying organic, buying local, recycling, giving to Salvation Army and Goodwill, donating food and toys at the holidays, being an example to my children of human kindness and compassion towards others. Kind of a ripple effect. All the small yet meaningful, and comfortable ways to help.

But I wonder if I have the capacity to be doing more. Living it, sacrificing, out of my comfort zone. What would that be like? Would I feel fulfilled? Would I be miserable? Would it matter how I felt as long as I was helping others?

Ultimately, since having my own kids, I want to help create a wonderful life for them right now, right where we are. My world view looks outward from them now. And at the same time, since becoming a mother, I feel community with all mothers, everywhere. I see suffering with new eyes, and sometimes it seems too much for me to bear, even though I'm only the observer...

Why, oh why did I have to try chai and watch Slumdog all in the same week? At least when I make it at home I'm not throwing $4 out the window, because can you imagine how far $4 could go in the slums of India?


  1. Privaleged white guilt can be amazingly overwhelming. Good for many of us that we can put it to some use. This last February, as my oldest child turned 8, I encouraged him to choose either his family or his friends to give to a charity of his choosing in lieu of giving him gifts. We discussed a couple of different ones and he settled on Habitat for Humanity. He is 8, so there was a bit of a personal struggle for him to decide which group of gift-givers to choose: Family would spend more money, but that would mean more money for Habitat. Friends would get him a greater variety of toys. In the end, he chose family. It was great. We ended up with fewer toys and he ended up with a sense of great pride in giving selflessly to someone who really needed it. It turned out that the family was great about this. They all gave in his name to Habitat and gave him HUGE strokes for making that choice. There were even family members that gave that wouldn't normally have sent him a present. A real lesson was enforced.

    As soon as the little one is older, we'll do that for him as well. Peggy chose the local Animal Shelter and I chose Marriage Equality. It was a real eye-opener.

    Thanks for sharing, Sara. I think many of us also feel somewhat impotent in the face of such poverty.

  2. Sara,
    You're JUST trying Chai? Isn't it lovely? I don't ever drink coffee but if I do go to an overpriced coffee store (which is rare) that Chai is my drink of choice....ask for an extra pump and get the Soy version - for some reason that makes it even more delicious!

  3. Hi Sara -

    I have six children, the youngest is 15. May I offer my take? Raise your children to love and respect life thus changing the world one child at a time. No greater thing can one do than to give of their life for another and here you are giving your life to change the future.

    Secondly, you should not sacrifice the gift of your tallents as you would not want to allow resentment take root, which it can. You may want to reassess your perspective on the subject. Perhaps just as parents need "Date Nights" you need time to foster selfesteem, and your identity which is very evidently as an artist. Scheduling time for you is paramount to good parenting. Consider this, what will a child learn from a parent that is frustrated and unfulfilled. We are at our best when we are whole and happy and our children emulate what they see and experience.

    This leads back to raising good loving and respectful children. Teach them what it is to be happy, the world will be a better place for your efforts.


  4. is a microlending program where you lend money and it gets paid back to you and you can relend it. Stefan has been doing it for awhile. Oprah had a whole show on micro loans to women, and she had something on her site to....

  5. Sara, Again I've had the same feelings you describe. I've been trying to figure out what to do beyond the careful consumption and donation choices. And if I want my children to embrace a value, they need to SEE the way I LIVE. Not just listen to lectures.

  6. Oh and I still haven't tried Chia or seen Slumdog Millionaire (apparently too violent for me).