7:30 BELLS Guest Post: Being Alive is Being Hosted, by Mitali Perkins

I'm pleased to share this month's 7:30 Bells Guest Post by award-winning children's book author Mitali Perkins.

I was dreading traveling to the Middle East last month. My father is declining and on hospice; my mother needs my help. Would they be okay while I was gone? On top of that, I was worried about encountering the kitsch that comes with tourism, especially in the Holy Land. Would I gag over Jesus Bobblehead dolls for sale in Bethlehem? But my pastor husband had invited me to go along with our church group, and I knew it was important that I go.

“Why are you going to Israel?” Dad asked, looking worried. “We don’t have family there!”

Thanks to cognitive decline, his English is failing faster than his native Bangla. I tried to figure out a way to answer in that language. And then it came in the blink of an aha moment: “I’m going to visit Jesus’ ‘desh’, Dad.”

“Oh!” He leaned back in his wheelchair, nodding with a sudden, full comprehension of the purpose of my trip.

“Desh” literally means “village,” but it’s one of those words that loses oodles of meaning in translation. You can’t really know someone in Bengal unless you visit their “desh.” You draw much closer once you’ve received hospitality in the place where they grew up.

The word rang with a chime of invitation to me. “Come to my village, Mitali,” I heard.

And so I went.

When I travel, I delight in engaging all five senses, but my Host knew all about that. The taste of steaming flat bread and fresh fish from the Sea of Galilee, the sounds of roosters crowing and children calling to each other in Nazareth, the cool feel of old, golden stones under my palm in Jerusalem, the smells of olive oil and nard in Bethlehem, the sight of a golden dome, high on a hill where old olive trees remembered everything … I loved every minute in Jesus’ desh, and my parents shared the visit through the photos I was sending.

Being alive, after all, is being hosted. The whole world is His “desh.”

P.S. No bobblehead Jesus dolls. Only olive-wood sheep. I bought ten.

Mitali Perkins is the author of several novels, including Rickshaw Girl (chosen by the New York Public Library as one of the top 100 books for children in the past 100 years) and Bamboo People (an American Library Association's Top Ten Novels for Young Adults.) Her newest, Tiger Boy, Charlesbridge, is a Notable Book for a Global Society and an NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor Book. Mitali was born in Kolkata, India before immigrating to the US with her family when she was seven. 

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.
7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second  Tuesday of every month.