Monday, April 15, 2013
I had met her over three years ago now. The first time I had journeyed to Thailand. She came to Bamboo School were I was working at the time, to ask if she could stay there for awhile. Her husband had just left her for another woman. She had a year and a half old boy, and a baby on the way. She came and worked hard. She was very pregnant but did her best to do odd jobs around, and to take care of her little boy. We began to build a relationship even though I couldn't speak Karen and she couldn't speak English. I allowed her to come to my beginner English class. She would sit on the floor surrounded by 5-10 year olds, her little boy beside her as she practiced writing. She learned how to say a few words. I was proud of her. She called me teacher.
Then, I had to go home. When I had returned to Thailand again, she was gone. I didn't know what had happened to her, or how she was doing. Then one day, I saw her at the market. She looked so very thin, she had her two sons with her, and a very old woman. We couldn't say much to each other, but still she called me teacher. Her face broke out into a smile as we hugged each other. I still didn't know enough Karen to ask her where she was, or what she was doing. She managed to communicate that she was going to Burma. She gave me this little heart ring. It was dirty, but beautiful as she pressed in into my hand.
I thought that was the last I would see of her. Then, I saw her walking down the road with only one shoe on. I felt overjoyed to see her. I called to her from my window. I told her to come over. I rushed out the door to bring the little troop in. My Karen teacher was there, giving them a funny look so I explained to her how I knew this woman. I knew a little more Karen this time, so I began to ask questions. Had you eaten yet? No. So, of course I had to dig up some food. She gave it to her little boys first, and then she ate. I asked what had happened to her shoes. Why did she only have one? Where was she living? How was she doing? Did she have a job?...
She looked happy, but also like a very busy mother trying to provide for her family. Her oldest boy had managed to get into a local pre-school/kindergarten program three days a week. Then, she had gotten remarried. Was this man good to her? Did he take care of her and provide for her? Did he love her?... She said that they were trying to work, but it was tough because they were both from Burma and didn't speak Thai. But, they had a new plan, a dream to start a Beetle Nut Tree farm in Burma. In fact, they were going to be moving that week. She was getting tired, it was hot, and her little boys were cranky, so I took them back to their little bamboo house on my motorbike. I was pleased to see that it was neat, tidy, and in good condition. That's a good sign. She still only had one shoe, so I gave her a pair of mine. Perhaps, it would express the same thanks and appreciation for her, that her little heart ring had done for me.
She tried to tell me in English, as I was leaving, that she was going back to Burma. She asked me to come visit her there. I told her that I too would be going back to my country, but that I hoped to return at the New Year. Perhaps, one day I will see her again. As I left, she called me Teacher.
I never thought of myself as a teacher, but her belief in me has lead to me to see myself differently, and how I use my time differently. I may not ever be a famous leader, nor write books, or impact a lot of people, but I know that I impacted one woman's life half way around the world, and that she too has changed mine. There is a verse from the Bible that has profoundly impacted my life. Its very simple, and often overlooked. But, most often its the simple things that can change lives, like being called Teacher, and giving someone your own shoes.
... Freely you have received; freely give.