One evening last week, we took some time to worship together. Stephen played keyboard in his studio while I sat on the floor singing along and praying through our lives, for our families and friends.
I began thinking about one of our little neighbor girls. She’s very dear to me–a favorite, if you’ll allow it–and comes here the most. She loves to sit outside and watch us. She’ll stay for quite sometime, just sitting on the porch, playing with the Memory cards or trash she found outside. And then she’ll come with huge, gorgeous eyes and ask us to come out and play. I usually tell her I’m busy the first time, but she always wins me over. Sometimes its the way she has all the Memory cards lined up perfectly waiting for a new game of just the two of us; sometimes it’s just an aching for her.
She loves to be held. Most of the other kids like to be thrown up in the air–“One! One! One!” they’ll say, like the pelicans on Finding Nemo–or to play with the cards or toys we have for them. They love hugs, too; maybe one or two, or a few moments of climbing upon us.
But my little favorite, Yuh Meh Oo, is just a little different. She doesn’t much like being thrown up in the air. She likes to play cards, but more for the sake of us all playing together and less for the activity. She loves it when it’s just the two or three of us and no other kiddos are around. She’ll crawl up in my arms, lay her head on my shoulder, and just sit for quite some time.
The more I’ve observed her, held her, and grown to love her, the more I’ve known something is different. She clearly needed a little extra love and attention.
And it was her that I was praying for specifically as I sat on the floor singing.
Fast forward to the end of this week. Stephen and I have begun painting our living room, and the doors and windows are wide open. The children are playing outside and coming up occasionally to comment and point at the new shade, and probably to discuss why they can’t draw on the walls but we can paint them.
It began to rain, and the kids quickly strip down to their shorts to play. Through motions, they asked if they could splash some water onto our “porch” that is approximately 2 meter by 3 meter, to slip and slide on. They’ve done this before, and it was hilarious then, so we agreed. Stephen even had the idea of throwing a little soap in, and added some detergent.
They loved it.
All was well, until my favorite little sweetheart stood up crying with her finger bent a little to the side.
And thus the afternoon unfolded through some broken exchanges of Karen. We learned that Yuh Meh Oo doesn’t have a mother, and her father is terrifying. It suddenly comes together why she loves our hugs and comfort, and perhaps why she needs them. The group gathered around initially tells us she doesn’t need a doctor, because it’s too expensive. We offer to help cover the cost, and they agree to send her along.
Stephen takes the motorbike with another “community mother” that’s unrelated, and Yuh Meh Oo. As it turns out, they were treated very poorly at the local hospital for illegal Burmese migrants, so Stephen took them on to the local Thai hospital. The adult woman refused to go inside for fear, and Stephen ended up taking a this little six-year-old inside by himself, admittedly looking a little suspicious, and trying to balance her Burmese, their Thai, and his English.
All this is while Yuh Meh Oo is X-rayed and sees a few doctors in her first air conditioned room.
I have begun to feel an urgency to be able to communicate with all the neighbors. We know each other amidst the oddest friendship. We can exchange simple conversations, when the few who speak Karen are present.
But somehow, they trust us. And we trust them.
And recently, God has given me a beautiful vision of being able to communicate–to invite the children into our home, but then be able to tell them what not to touch and when to go home, rather than simply find boundaries we can communicate with actions. To have the girls over for tea, as they become teenagers in the next few years; to be able to talk with them and know them. To be their friend and confidant. To live life together more holistically.
It made me ache to continue learning Karen, and hopefully to be in a secure enough place I could continue with Burmese shortly. It made me hope for the relationships to come.
But it also made me grateful for now. The deep trust and unique relationship that has already formed under these distinctive circumstances will surely make the future conversations so much richer.
Per usual, I have these stories and more, and I don’t have a true conclusion to any of it.
I suppose I can simply say that I’ve seen God working this week, and it seems noteworthy.
Something changed in me as we sang that night, and He broke my heart all over again for the community so near to us. And ultimately, it prepared me for the next Friday, as we discussed hospitals, saw deeper into their poverty, and stepped slightly closer into their lives.
He challenged me to continue studying with hope, and we have begun studying our Karen a little bit each night. I’ve committed to only five minutes a day, and we’ve done at least that every day in April. I’m committed to progress, and determined to finish one so I can move onto the next. There are so many conversations to be had.
Honestly, I don’t have the right words. I’ve had this blog half-written for days now, and even now I’m writing and erasing multiple times.
I just love them more than I thought I did. And this week in particular, I can see the things that God is orchestrating things. I’m thankful that we signed another two year lease; and I’m thankful for the miracle that landed us in this home across from this neighborhood. I’m praying for miracles in our language learning; and I’m hoping for beautiful things to grow out of the next stage. I know that we have sought to be wise in not giving too much, but I also see that there are times we should give more generously. I can see when it is good for us to establish boundaries, but also when we need to let a little grace and extra kindness seep in.
Somedays I could see us here for many more years; other days I’m not sure I’ll last another fifteen minutes. And sometimes, these are the same days, leaving me feel as though I might be just going crazy.
But in a few moments recently, I’ve known that this has been right and something sacred is forming.
May God bless us with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships
So that we may live from deep within our hearts.
May God bless us with anger
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of God’s creations
So that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.
May God bless us with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war,
So that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and
To turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless us with just enough foolishness
To believe that we can make a difference in the world,
So that we can do what others claim cannot be done:
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and all our neighbors who are poor.
–A Franciscan benediction