It has already been six weeks since my arrival in Pakistan. Although I feel I am well and truly in the swing of things now, I know that I still have so much to learn. I treasure the time I get to spend with the counsellors, as they also have their own stories to tell.
They spend every day listening to the trauma and sadness that comes to them. They listen to stories of poverty. Women who talk about not being able to feed their children or wash their clothes. Proud women who are ashamed that their life has come to this – women who say, “I am not a dirty person, but look at my daughter’s dress. I don’t have any way of washing it.” Women who say, “I am living in a house with no windows and no doors. It is cold, and I am scared for myself and my children.”
Hearing this, I feel helpless. The counsellors feel helpless. All we can do is listen. I’m not sure there is any amount of training that helps you deal with the sadness of seeing people who have nothing.
I’m also not sure that any of my previous experiences prepared me for how to respond when I met a woman who had not a cent to her name, who could not even afford to buy bread for her seven children, who had to send her 12-year-old son to start work and who was considering (with much heartache) having her 13-year-old daughter marry so they could obtain a dowry to feed the other children. She invited me to her home, saying with such sincerity that I am a guest in her country, and it would be her joy and honour to host me at her house. She did not once ask for money during our multiple interactions. She taught me a generosity and kindness of spirit I hope I will never forget.