A photo of Usha Shaw

Usha Shaw

Mumbai, India


I pray for two hours in meditation. And I think prayer is the one thing which God listens to. Not that He gives the immediate answer but He listens to you. I feel it.

Because there are many incidents in life, I say by doing the work you know when the hard cases come to me, and they are very poor and they need thousands of rupees, then I feel where the funds come, when I approach people, people give me. Or, one day a person had been operated on and he needed the medicine really badly. The doctors said, ‘Within an hour you must bring 600 rupees [between $12 and $15],’ but he didn’t have it. And my salary at that time was not even 10 dollars. Somehow I had the money in my pocket. But whenever I say, ‘God I need these things,’ He gives them to me...not for myself that I ever asked, but whatever I ask for my patient or my family, not this family, the family which I work. So whatever, He takes care of them. That is what I observed. [A young man] had a kidney problem. Nobody wanted to donate the kidney and then I said, ‘Look, this young chap is going to die.’ Three brothers never agreed to give a kidney and I said, ‘Now what to do?’ But luckily his dad was not that old. Then he gave, so I do not know, but whenever I tell God that I’m in this difficulty I ask, ‘Please help me’ and He helps me. My mother has taught that if you do any religious law, never do it for your selfish purpose.

Daniel’s Reflection

Usha Shah, pictured in the center of the portrait with her sisters Sarla and Saroj, is a career social worker in Mumbai, India. Her life and profession have been driven by her Jain faith, especially the tenet of Jainism to have love and compassion for all living things. She described to me how “hard cases” come to her for the “thousands of rupees” they need, and how she asks for and receives it from others with God’s help. Sometimes, the needed money just appears in her own pocket, and she gives it to the person in need. Her mother taught her to follow “religious law,” but never for a selfish purpose.

I was so deeply moved when Usha shared with me how God always provides a solution for those in need in her life as long as she doesn’t ask on behalf of herself. While I was raised learning Jewish liturgy, I don’t feel that I really learned about personal prayer until later in my life. And what I have come to understand is that prayer for self doesn’t work unless it is prayer to be more useful to others. Usha’s life as a social worker is filled with examples of the Universe providing exactly what is needed for others when it is most needed. Whether it be money for a prescription for a sick client or a client in need of a kidney transplant, Usha’s stance is that she is here to be useful to God and to all living things. And what is so profound for me is that Usha feels she has been given everything in life. I pray that I remember this lesson that life is most meaningful when it is lived in service to others.  

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