Written by: Molly Murray ‘ 13 – Canisius College
Technically speaking, the word “solidarity” means “the feeling or expression of union in a group formed by a common interest”. While preparing for my two week service-immersion trip to Southeastern India, that term was thrown around in discussion quite a lot. The leaders proclaimed it as a “cornerstone” upon which we were to base our trip. Going into the experience, I had such a basic dictionary definition of the word and essentially nothing else. Yes, I knew that I was going to form bonds with the people with whom I worked and interacted; however, after actually going through this magnificent experience, I now fully comprehend the meaning of this term.
It sounds cliché, I know, but it is this word “solidarity” that has forever given new insights on my life and how I view the world. Truly interacting with the Indian people, who are seemingly so different from our Western lifestyles with their different language, religions, customs, foods, etc., seemed to be a challenging mission to me at first. How could someone who is outwardly so different possibly share a “common interest” with me? Given the strong language barrier, the task was indeed difficult at times. Nevertheless, it was once I entered into the first village where I fully grasped the meaning of “solidarity”. These beautiful people, the Dalits, who literally have nothing and are treated as sub-human by the rest of their society just on the basis of their birth, welcomed me and the rest of my group with open arms into their village and homes. During the welcoming ceremony, the male elder of the village, who spoke absolutely no English, took my hands in his, kissed them, placed them to his head, and held them there while he teared up. This was possibly the most beautiful and humbling experience I have ever had. It was then that I knew that we were not all so different. We were, and still are, human. To that man, his village, and now me, that was and forever will be enough on which to form a bond with another. It is the common thread of humanity that eternally connects us all.