Some dear friends of ours were kicked off their land this month. Oo Beh Kyaw & Thida are some of our favorites, in the most I-don’t-have-favorites sort of way, because how can you not be so grateful for such a great family? More often than not, they are the light at the end of this neighborhood tunnel, giving us hope that Jesus is making things grow.
They previously lived across from us, but they were kicked off that land two years ago. They moved to land next to the kids’ school, about 500m down the road. When Stephen was picking them up for bible study a two weeks ago, they told him the sad news of having to move. We offered to help in any way we could and that we’d follow up.
We have asked a few times since then, and it seemed like everything was covered. They said they had a new house planned on the same school property, they would just need to rebuild, and the land rental might be more expensive. It was still affordable, not too far from us, and seemed hopeful.
In the middle of this I had come down with a horrible eye infection that left me looking like Hitch and left me in bed for three days unable to see. We are also rolling out new Flour & Flowers recipes, schedules, and such; which all takes multiple trips to the store, multiple baking experiments, and multiple “meetings” with the women. Oh, and we made too many trips to the hospital this week, and we’re both running on empty.
When I saw Thida, on Thursday, it was in passing. I asked her how they were, and she said they were fine. I asked if they had a new place, and she said they did. When I asked where she said to come by and she’d show us. I assured her I would on Friday; I had bread to bake on Thursday.
I remembered this late in the day on Friday, and we made our way over last night. Their house is gone; it’s an empty plot of land. It felt just like two years ago, seeing the place that held so many people, memories, and smiles, left as a just an empty piece of land and loads of trash.
It’s amazing what power people can have over others. It’s amazing how revolutionary the cycles are. It’s heartbreaking to simply watch them go round.
We found their family gathered around another hut nearby where the old one stood. I’ve seen the look on their faces before: defeat, hopelessness, questions, timidity. Smallness. They look so small when they are fearful and helpless and unsure. I miss the confident, smart look on Chit Ne Oo’s face after school. Or Thida’s determined business smile, compared to the smile like she’s just seen her favorite person–though many of us make the list.
All of their belongings were gathered around the house in baskets and bins, they were eating around a simple table outside. We learned that since they didn’t all fit in the house–their family alone numbered nine, there isn’t enough floor space even–the parents are sleeping outside on the table.
My friends are sleeping outside on a table.
Not under the stars in a dreamy camping weekend, but on a table, in the middle of a trashy hut community, where they will eat the next day. Because they are homeless.
And the rain starts, well…I was hoping soon. We were hoping for rain on Monday, after many weeks of melting temperatures. Now I’m sure I could sweat a few more weeks if it keeps them dry.
Honestly, we didn’t know what to say. We told them we are sorry. We asked them about options. And ultimately, we told them to come to our house tomorrow at 5– mostly just to give us some time to talk about what we can do and how.
That can really put a damper on your Friday night.
So we cooked dinner together and talked about options. Everything from finding someone to help them start a business to splitting their rent on a new place they can’t afford to having them move in with us temporarily. We talked about who we could write and who we could call; we called and we wrote.
Now we’re waiting. I guess for our meeting at 5pm, for friends to write back. Really, we’re waiting on a miracle again.
It’s so complicated, you see. We could give them money to help, because no matter what you say, we have it. We have money and access to money in ways they can’t comprehend. We could let them move into our yard or into our house; how would we share a bathroom with 12 people? How would we cook? Practically speaking, can we handle it? But if we don’t or “can’t”–how selfish is that?
But if we do, what road does that lead us down? How many more will move in? How many more will ask for money?
It is one family in desperate need this week, but it is many families in desperate need many times a year. This isn’t new. This is just the next revolution of the cycle.
Honestly, can I just tell you this: it so different when the people you want to serve and show Jesus become your friends. It just changes. We are trying so hard to think of the repercussions, the effects, the long term plan; but all I can think of is that she is like my mother here. Thida is like my mother here. She checks on us when we are sick and send food for us constantly. Her children are like my sisters and brothers. We love them.
They can’t sleep under the stars. They can’t be homeless.
I can’t swim laps in the pool every day and sleep in my air conditioning and enjoy a cup of coffee while they are homeless and scared. They can’t co-exist.
We work so hard to make this life livable. Really, we do. We work so hard to know our limits and help each other find our extremes. If one of us is drowning–even for a minute or for an unexplainable reason–the other has to step in. We tag team when I can’t handle so-and-so’s pushiness and Stephen can’t handle the pool of blood forming on our floor. We have to think about when to say yes and when to say no. We work equally as hard to protect our Sabbath as to enjoy it. We escape and sit over cups of coffee to breathe and evaluate the next step on long days.
But all those efforts: the membership to the local pool, the coffee cups, the gate that closes when we really need the space; they are useless if we can’t actually help the neighbors make this life livable, for them as well. They aren’t asking for a pool to swim laps in and a fancy latte.
They are asking for a house. They are asking for enough floor space to sleep. They are asking for a safe place to live and work and raise a family.
So now that is on my list, too. Today I need the space to swim, but I also need a place for them to live, whatever that may cost us. I can tell myself not to over-commit or stretch ourselves too thin; the word boundaries is echoing hauntingly in my head. But so are their faces.
I never knew how dangerous it was to really fall in love with people.