It’s become a trend to choose a word for the year in January. I didn’t join this trend; I just made a few old-fashioned goals.
And then I find myself in February, and it seems a word has picked us. This, my friends, is the year of conversations.
We still have a bread business; ladies are still sewing and making jewelry. The kids still come to play. Stephen is still recording and working with Pyint Soe. English classes are meeting and the new musicians are getting better.
But these are just actions; items on the calendar. Our days are built around conversations. They are difficult, real, and seemingly endless. Sometimes I’m grasping for a specific word I can’t remember the translation; others where I’m grasping for words at all.
In some conversations I know we’ve broken Burmese culture; while in others I know we’ve broken American culture. Most the time I think we’ve abandoned both, and we’re just moving into this no-mans land of a multicultural friendship in some very messy situations.
Over family dinner, we’ve discussed if you’d rather be able to fly or to make yourself invisible. We’ve also talked about the culture of how you wash your clothes, what our values are for our children, and who decides what we watch on television in our homes. We’ve talked about if we should treat everyone equal: if they ask for rice, if we serve them dinner. We’ve talked about alcohol and how we treat animals and gender roles.
Over tea and jewelry and lunch and in the car, we’ve talked about abuse. The self-defense classes we’re attending were specifically offered to some women in difficult situations, and we’ve dealt with them very personally in the past few weeks. Conversations have turned to parents that passed away, stepmothers that abused, family they don’t have. We’ve talked about husbands that beat, the pain of alcoholism, the shame from mother-in-laws, the fear of surviving. We’ve talked about fathers that don’t remember their actions the next day. We’ve talked about safety plans. I talked to one woman about her own self worth, desperately telling her how much I’d miss her if she disappeared, even as she mourned that no one would.
We’ve also talked about how couples met years ago, when certain family members went to Bangkok and when they returned. We’ve talked about one-year goals and five-year goals; dreams and what we’d do with one million baht.
This is all since January. Because this is the year of conversations.
There have been some really beautiful conversations. Moments I couldn’t have created if I tried. Our friends are trusting us in ways they never have, and we’re trusting them, too, with some our fears and challenges; the hopes we have and the things that break our hearts.
I’m thankful for the tea and rice and car rides and muffins and coffees that make these conversations happen.
I’m also overwhelmed at the teas, coffees, and rice still on the schedule for this week. Plus the unplanned ones I can’t currently see coming. Will I have the words? Will I seize the moment? How do I really love this girl right now in this moment, knowing all the pain she carries? What do we say to this man, to love him and challenge him and welcome him in, after we’ve just seen the bruises on his wife?
I’m still overwhelmed by the conversations that have already gone by, reveling in how to pray for them, how to hope for them, and what to do now. Did I say the right word? Did they even understand? Should I have said something more?
I don’t know most of these things. I know we’ve been building bridges for years and years, and we hope they are strong enough to continue to hold very honest|painful|hopeful conversations.
It’s only February, and I already know this is the year of conversations.