Friday, July 9, 2010

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Picture me, standing in a bookstore in the airport in New Delhi. I had four books in my hand, trying to decide which one to choose and then I saw it. A blue book with a seagull soaring on the cover, Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I remember seeing a movie about this book in 5th or 6th grade and being disturbed by the violent seagulls. Maybe I have mixed up that movie and “The Birds” by Alfred Hitchcock. Either way, I don’t remember liking it. It is now one of my favorite books. Jonathan is not satisfied with just being an average seagull and centering his life around where to get his next meal. The code of the seagulls is “live to eat”. Jonathan’s code; “eat to live” This phrase is written in puff paint on my old green snowboard that I made into a bench. Weird. Anyway, Jonathan is kicked out of the seagull clan because he will not conform, and he is more interested in learning how to fly and flying well. On his way to the cliffs where he was banished a seagull starts flying with him, and this seagull can fly. Jonathan finds out that there are more seagulls just like him that can teach him how to fly perfectly. Once he perfects flying they want him to stay and be an instructor. Livingston declines and says that he needs to go back and give his seagull family the knowledge he has now. Even though they treated him so badly he wants them to enjoy the happiness that he has.
“Why is it,” Jonathan puzzled, “that the hardest thing in the world is to convince a bird that he is free, and that he can prove it for himself if he’d just spend a little time practicing? Why should that be so hard?”
The people we are working with have been kicked out of their communities, are banned from riding public buses, their children are not allowed to attend most schools. They learn here that they are free. They seem happier than most people I have seen in India. They have learned that there are people just like them, good people, whose lives have been affected by leprosy. There is a real sense of community and love at the Rising Star Outreach center. I can imagine all of them going back to their communities and using all of the knowledge they have gained to help the same people that ostersized them reach the level they have attained. I had one of the older students translate for me as I asked a 6 year old girl, Abisha, some questions about herself. She wants to be a doctor because her mom said she should. What a great way to bless other people.

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