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Personal sacrifice for children who suffer

Susan Notes:

"Yahoo!" is not an appropriate word for what follows, but I consider it very good news when a teacher acts out of conscience for the good of children.

by Ramnath Subramanian

Mahatma Gandhi used fasting as a tool to achieve many political ends. Sometimes he fasted to bring attention to and seek remedies for the iniquitous treatment of India's untouchables; at other times to quell the racial violence that erupted between Hindus and Muslims even as India was marching toward her independence.

Gandhi believed that personal sacrifice and suffering were often essential to bring about needed change.

"Real suffering, bravely borne, melts even a heart of stone," Gandhi said, and he used the personal suffering inherent in fasting to bring opposing parties to the table, and to fashion a democracy based on high ideals.

Growing up in India, I always felt the ambience of Gandhi's life and his teachings, as though they were present in all the quotidian aspects of life. In the melee of the marketplace, or in the quietude of public gardens, one could easily imagine Bapu's voice calling people to action.

Today, that voice tells me to do something, no matter how small, to try to alleviate the suffering of children in various parts of the globe.

Since Nov. 16, each week in the months of November, December, and January, I will fast from 6 p.m. on Tuesday to 6 p.m. on Wednesday. I call upon friends and readers of my columns to "take me out to lunch" during these fasting periods.

Since I cannot partake of any food, such an enterprise would have to be something of a virtual event, and would come without the blessing or the inconvenience, as the case might be, of my company.

I ask that whatever money would have been spent on me be sent to any charitable organization that is directly engaged in helping suffering children.

The Children's Coalition for World Peace, a youth organization headquartered at Eastwood Knolls School, is focusing its efforts this winter on Haiti.

The Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, and a host of other organizations come readily to my mind, but it matters not what organization is helped so long as a child is helped.

I always tell myself that a child carries with him the potential for mankind's salvation, for the gifts he may return to us as a man are beyond the reach of our contemplation or calculation.

I anticipate some detractor's voice to say that my fast is not enough suffering, or that the scheme -- to use the critic's mot juste -- is gimmicky.

As to the potential first criticism, I concede that the affliction is meager. Going without food for a 24-hour period may cause some discomfiture, but it can hardly be called suffering.

On a few occasions, while I served with the United States Army, I went without food for longer periods of time and suffered no detriment to my health or psyche.

However, there is a marked difference between circumstantial fasting and deliberate fasting, just as surely as there is between a thought and a prayer. The latter, purposeful and pure, has the capability to bring one closer to the suffering of others, and by that truth, perchance, to shine the light on a new path in the journey.

And as to the potential second criticism, the suffering children do not care if help comes riding on a horse or on a donkey.

Ramnath Subramanian, a sixth-grade science teacher at Eastwood Knolls School in El Paso, writes for the El Paso Times on educational topics. E-mail address: ramnath10@aol.com

— Ramnath Subramanian
El Paso Times



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