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Lost, Inspired, or Both?

You may have already heard of Saroo Brierly. I few years ago his story made the rounds as one of those human interest stories that circulates on social media. There was a book; there may yet be a movie forthcoming. Here’s the gist, if you missed it or need a refresher:

Saroo, originally named Sheru, was born in India. His family was poor enough that he and his brothers began begging in the local train station as a strategy to survive. One day, Sheru became separated from his older brother and ended up on the wrong train. He found his way to an entirely different part of the country where he knew no one, and the dialect of Hindi he spoke had little use in communication. He was five.

Against long and dangerous odds, Sheru managed to survive on his own for weeks and eventually found his way to a police station. The authorities weren’t able to piece together exactly where Sheru was from, based on what he could tell them – India is a large country with a great many people, and not all five year-olds can give the full, proper name of their hometown. He was declared a lost child, and put up for adoption. He was eventually adopted by an Australian family, and after joining their family he learned English, and lost his Hindi. The prospect of ever finding his original home and family again faded further and further away.

But decades later, as an adult, Sheru – now, Saroo – began searching for a needle in the haystack of India’s many villages and railways. With only dim recollections of a few landmarks to go on, Saroo relied on internet image searches and satellite maps to narrow down the range of possibilities, and eventually retrace the route of the train that had taken him so far from home. He settled onto one city – out of the more than 1,600 cities and towns in India – that he felt could be the right one. Saroo returned to India, to that city, Khandwa, and began to ask around. With the help of local residents, and some pictures he had of himself as a child, he found his way back to his mother – 25 years from when they had seen each other last.

Tonight, as part of a meeting of minister’s I’m attending in Portland, OR before our association of congregations’ General Assembly, our song leader gave us instructions that ran something like this: “I’m going to separate you into two parts, and if you get inspired – or lost – you can start a third.” (That song leader was Matt Meyer, whom many of you met when he led an awesome service at First Parish several months ago.) The difference between being lost and being inspired is often very thin, and sometimes no difference at all. The course of finding ourselves over again can be wondrous and painful – an arduous struggle and a fruitful experience of possibility. The summer is a time when many of us go wandering – literally or figuratively. And while, of course, I do not wish that any of you should become so lost as Saroo Brierly did, I do wish for you as much tenacity and ingenuity, and creative skill to survive, as allowed him to find his way home again.

In Faith,

Rev. Kelly Weisman Asprooth-Jackson


First Parish Church

225 Cabot St

Beverly, MA 01915


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