Archive 2008 - 2019

One Year After

by Herb Brockert

Traveling to India one year ago, with my friend Paul Saulnier, has left me with some interesting and beautiful memories. I felt a personal satisfaction helping to improve the sanitation issues at the school where we installed a leaching system. 

I felt a personal satisfaction helping to improve the sanitation issues at the school where we installed a leaching system. I hope, by showing a few young people there is a better way of wastewater disposal, instead of dumping it on the ground, the future generation will think differently.  

We felt like important dignitaries walking through the village, as the kids greeted us with enthuastic smiles and cheerful good morning wishes. Their energy and friendliness gave us joy in the midst of the astonishment we felt, absorbing the level of the poor living conditions.  

Walking on the dusty, broken streets on the way to the school and looking at the blue tarp village, where migrant sugar cane workers lived with their families, twisted my mind trying to imagine what it might be like to live like that.

Having my sense of sight, smell and hearing all involved while taking in the picture hammered home the reality of how good I have it.

From those hazy morning walks in Nansad to today, the year has passed quickly. The memories are still fresh however, and the gratitude for where I live grows daily.

I have been blessed with the opportunity to travel to many other areas of the world, steeping myself in the villages and cities of other cultures as well. 

India is one place that is a mysterious and fascinating culture. I have a love/hate relationship with it.

At 1.3 billion people that is roughly one billion more than our country, in a land mass one third the size of the USA, the opportunity for success is greatly limited and an affluent life style as we know it is virtually non-existant. Personal space requirements are compressed as the one billion more people are found everywhere, walking the streets, riding bicycles, driving in cars trucks and ox carts.

Food choices are basic and much fewer.


It is common to use the ground for your trash.  Drinking the water will send you running to the toilet and the dark-colored streams are the sewers.

What is still a mystery to me in all this poverty and pollution is how the Indian people I have met can still have heart warm smiles and manage a spiritual faith in their lives. A guide once said to me, "If everyone knew how wonderful a country India was they would all want to come and live here."  I could feel his sincerity as he said this, but the picture I saw did not line up with his words.  I feel lucky to be born in America and not in a country like this.

There are huge numbers of people who live in abject poverty.  The Indian people have so few possessions , I find it hard to relate.

When I see someone living in a blue tarp tent, I realize that this is their home.   I know firsthand the discomfort of sleeping on the ground, so I am thankful for my bed.

If I fell into the dirty stream that people were bathing in, I would run home and take a shower. Quite a different experience from having this stream be the shower. I feel so lucky to have a dry home with running water, both hot and cold.

I love to eat all types of food. When I see people eating rice and dahll three times a day, or some other concoction cooking in a big pot that I am wondering what might be, I am glad it is not my supper.

I feel extremely grateful for the variety of foods I can choose  from in America.  My grocery store or restaurant gives me an unlimited selection of nourishment for whatever my taste buds desire. Turning the key in my air conditioned car while the stereo system plays is how I have come to view transportation.  

When I see people riding on the roof of a bus, in one hundred degree temperatures, I am much more grateful for my own car.

Taking everyday comforts for granted and expecting to have more tomorrow vibrates as the American way. There is a good part about this mindset. It offers the opportunity to nurture ambition and drive. Ambition and drive help to get us some of the comforts we have come to expect. This drive alone, without the balance of gratitude to keep it in check, can also lead to excessive desire. Too much desire puts us on a discontented path of always wanting more. When you satisfy this desire for more by spending money on things you want, but really do not need, you can get caught on a treadmill.

Learning to be grateful for the abundance we already have is a far greater skill to master than being driven by the mind chatter that is always looking for more.  When I am having one of those days when gratitude has slipped from my grasp and am worshiping the Cadillac that has just passed me, I think back to some of the images I have seen in other parts of the world, and it gives me perspective. For those days when wanting more seems like the only answer, I'd like to share these images as a small reminder that most of us are already much better off than many people in the world.

Comments (3)

Thank you for this article and the photos reminding me to be grateful for the abundance of food, clean water, and sanitation we have here. I feel lucky to have been born in this country but sad when I think that we flush our toilets with potable water when much of the world's population does not have clean water to drink. If you go build more leaching fields and take up a collection, count me in.

Mary Curran | 2016-08-11 08:08:43

Herb your tale is quite moving. I suppose they have never experienced any other way of life. Thsnks for your insight. Bill Stickney

Bill stickney | 2016-08-10 10:16:05

Thanks for sharing the photos and your thoughts, Herb. This sentence of yours is beautiful and to-the-point. "Learning to be grateful for the abundance we already have is a far greater skill to master than being driven by the mind chatter that is always looking for more." Well said. Thank you.

Mary Greendale | 2016-08-10 07:08:24