Some days I hate where we live.
[Such an optimistic opening line; let’s just consider that your warning.]
I hate that there is always suffering on every turn: that there is the child outside my door that needs love, that there are budget cuts taking away medicine and soap, that there are children asking for money while I buy groceries.
We learned this week that the organization that provides food to all the refugee camps just can’t get out of the economic crisis. They will be reducing the rations to each refugee by one kilo of rice per month to try to balance the budget.
One kilogram of rice being cut from a person who is already receiving predetermined amounts of rice, yellow bean, fish paste, chilies, a nutrient cereal, and salt.
I wrote in my journal a few weeks back:
“I figured it out: it’s the word ‘rations.’ It brings it all back–that its a prison, that they can’t go home, that they can’t pick their foods, that they can’t choose a day to go grocery shopping. It’s rationed. Maybe just a fancy word for being hungry.”
I found this article recently on the beggars in Mae Sot. (Unfortunately, this link is no longer available.)
That’s my town; those are my streets and markets; I am the white foreigner they are hoping will give them a larger sum.
That same journal entry continued:
“He knows them. He knows the hairs on their heads. He knows the hairs on every head of every student at the dorm. He knows the hairs on the heads of every person in the jungle tonight. And more than that–he knows their hunger pains. He knows that they are scared for their babies. He knows which families will make it to safety. He knows which families won’t.
And He’s good. He really knows us. He really loves us.”
In moving here, in falling in love with these people, and in aching for this country, there was a certain burden that was taken on. Sometimes I call it a burden; sometimes just “gray”; sometimes a gulf. We didn’t know it was coming, or at least not with such force. And now that its there it can’t be shaken off.
I remember as we were preparing to come to Thailand, we met with a man who had lived in Kenya with his family for about ten years. They had all been back for nearly ten years, but as he spoke to us, it was like he was aching for us. He was encouraging; he listened to the story that brought us here. We could see him resonate. He didn’t try to dissuade us from coming; but it was as though he ached for us.
We didn’t know him too well, really. And as we left, I remember discussing it with Stephen–how he seemed to hurt for us, and how I didn’t understand it.
A few months into living here, we discussed it again. This time, we understood it. We understood his ache, and that he knew far better than we did what we were walking into. I think it was this ache, this burden, this grayness: he knew he couldn’t explain it, nor did he really want to stop us from experiencing it. But it made him ache, too, to know that we’d be taking this on.
In the movie The Matrix, Morpheus offers to show Neo the truth of the world he lives in. He says it this way,
“Unfortunately, no one can be told what the matrix is. You have to see it for yourself. This is your last chance; after this there is no turning back.
You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.
You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland; and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.
…Remember, all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.”
I guess I write this knowing full well that it won’t be understood. I don’t think it can be, honestly. And I don’t think that’s better or worse of any of us; it just is.
Stephen and I experiencing the last year together has brought us closer in a way that many things couldn’t. I guess we both took the red pill at the same time, and we’re falling through the rabbit hole together.
We still don’t know how deep it is. And I don’t spend too much time dwelling on that.
Later on in The Matrix, after Neo has taken the red pill and has begun to experience the worst of things, he asks Morpheus,
“Can’t go back, can I?”
“No, but if you could, would you really want to?”
And knowing full well that I can’t go back — that even if we were living in our tiny little studio apartment in Oklahoma City, if I worked with Kim every day and made beautiful handicrafts with my favorite girls in the afternoon, living within in five hours drive of a family holiday, it wouldn’t be the same — sometimes I wonder if I would. Would I go back to not feeling the hand pulling my arm and asking for money? Would I go back to not hugging the little girl with lice? Would I go back to not knowing that there is war, that there is running, and that there is a strong hope that permeates the blood stained lives?
I don’t know.
I know that now, I ache for something greater. I ache for the cease fire to be signed; I ache for the landmines to be removed; I ache for the medical system to be rebuilt; I ache for equality.
“But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us to consummation: trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13, The Message