My journey started in December of 1995 when I was traveling in India as a tourist with a group of friends. On our way from the holy city of Varanasi to the State of Bihar, I saw heaps of trash for miles through my car window. I saw families living in huts made of plastic, mothers milking their newborns, and so many poor children scavenging through the trash for anything they could eat, use or sell. Smells of rotten garbage and urine filled the air, and the sound of car horns was so loud it was almost unbearable. While I covered my mouth and nose, I remember feeling disgusted and uncomfortable and I complained non-stop about the smell, the car horns, and the flies and mosquitos.
It was winter time in Bihar, a State known for it’s freezing cold temperatures. We decided to stop for some hot tea at an Indian chai stall that happened to look out over this massive trash scene. I was sitting in my black Eddie Bauer down ski suit with a matching hat and gloves enjoying my chai when through the door, a very thin 3-year-old girl entered wearing a short-sleeved dress with a broken zip in the back and no shoes. Her hair was knotted and matted to her head. She had a beautiful face and her big black eyes radiated innocence. She came right up to me and pointed to my chai. I thought she wanted to drink the chai, so I gave it to her. But she didn’t drink; she just held the cup close to her body for warmth. Then she sat on the floor right next to my feet and snuggled up to my legs to share my body heat. My motherly instinct kicked in as I felt her shivering, and I bent down to hold her in my arms and give her tiny naked body relief from the cold.
That was it. With my eyes closed and my arms still around the girl, I entered into a tunnel with a bright white light at the end. Scenes from my entire life of priviledge flashed all around me in the tunnel. I saw myself skiing in Gstaad, Switzerland, then on a yacht in Nice, France, then shopping in Paris, and eating at a casino in London. Even though I was a single woman, I saw the image of my 3-story, 4-bedroom house located outside of San Francisco, with its 4 walk-in closets full of my designer clothes and shoes, many with the tags still attached because I never had time to wear them.
Through these flashing images, I suddenly woke up to the realization that I had been carelessly wasting my money on jet-set traveling, partying every night, drinking and shopping! One question came to my mind: why should I have so much money that I can waste it, and one child should be so freezing cold to need my cup of tea to warm her fragile body? After I saw all of these things in the tunnel, I started to cry and didn’t let go of the child. I wanted to take her with me to America. I began to argue with my friends, who told me I couldn’t take her, that she must have a father and mother nearby. But I wouldn’t let go. I wanted to take her to my big house to give her the same opportunities that I had received growing up.