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Her Small, Big Moment

This is a post I weighed whether or not to share because it's very personal.

It's about a dear friend, Aruna, who became like a little sister to me during my stay at the leprosy community in India in 2011.

We worked together on many activities, most notably the Loving Leadership group. She was a consistent source of support, especially when acting as translator (she taught herself English by watching movies). I love her dearly. She is an inspiring, amazing human being.

Aruna lost her father two years ago due to complications with leprosy. She's 19 now, so that was a young age to lose a father.

On a recent occasion, she told me that she cried the day her father died but hadn't cried since.

In the weeks and days leading up to my departure from the community, Aruna and many of our kids, half jokingly would say they would be crying that day. They were more than half right.

The outpouring of emotion, including tears, during my farewell ceremony was overwhelming. People were literally sobbing, even people who I had not really gotten to know that well, even the elderly grandmothers from the nightly dinner program (above).

That night, about 10 members from the community, including Aruna, traveled with me to the airport to see me off to Kenya.

A few minutes into the rickshaw ride, she began to cry. The first cry in two years since her dad died.

I said to her in English, "It's good your heart is opening."

We arrived at the airport and one-by-one I said farewell to those that had traveled with me.

Last up was Aruna.

She gave me a huge hug, to the sounds of others whistling and applauding, and said in Hindi, "Jaaldi ao" or "Come back quickly."

We've never hugged before. That's because members of the opposite of sex in India don't hug in adult years, it's considered to be inappropriate and risque. More tears on her part flowed, mine would come the day after.

What an incredible note to end the year on and gift to carry on my way to Kenya.