Sitting across from me is an old friend. I've known this man for about 4 years now and he always has something new to say. For the most part I listen, and most times walk away having learned something. Really, we are the most unlikely of friends. See, he is a middle-aged, asian man from the jungles of Burma and Thailand, and I am a 20s something white girl from the most luxurious nations of all time, America.
His name is Saw Mu Lar, and first and foremost he is a father and husband. Secondly, he is a friend to most anyone. Thirdly, he is a leader in the sense of doing what little things he can to bring about good.
My name is Amber, and who I am is still in the making, but I would like to also think I am a friend to everyone (with some wise discretion to some characters, right?) and a leader in some aspects...
But, back to learning from my friend. He talks, I listen. Today, he is talking about how doing certain things leads to feeling not good, or to not being happy. Some of his thoughts are based on his culture which is very interdependent and social. Saw Mu is Karen, and typically the Karen love socializing and don't always understand the concept of spending time alone (as I have found to be the case from my own experiences). Anyways, my point is that for Saw Mu Lar, spending time isolated from others leads to being unhappy and is "not good" or not healthy. He is talking about how so many Americans, get up and go to work, come home, eat some food, play on the internet/watch tv, go to sleep, get up and repeat. I had to agree with him, cuz I find myself doing the same thing. For example, the past few weeks I have found myself feeling stressed out and tense. I have been wondering why that is, and I was just thinking this past week that its because I spend too much time goofing off on the internet. My time is being used unwisely and not spent interacting with others. Sure, it would make sense to start feeling stressed, tense, and not good by spending too much time on the internet or television, and not enough time spent with others.
Basically, Saw Mu Lar is pointing out that some of our daily American habits lead to being unhappy. I'm sitting here thinking, how many doctors and people with expensive degrees doing research does it take to figure out what this man from the jungle learned from just observing the new culture he found himself in? That's why I sit and listen to this man. Cuz he knows something from looking into my culture from the outside and he is not afraid to talk about it.
His remedy, he tells me, is to take time to sit down and eat together. If you're at work, call your friend and coworkers over to eat with you. Actually share your food with them, and ask them about their family. He said, "how many people actually know their coworkers' families? Know their names, and faces, and have met them". Also, take time to go visit other people in their homes.
He is telling me this while I sit on his living room floor on a mat eating with my hands the food he has shared with me. He always asks how my parents are doing, and if anything is new. If I talk about something, he listens. Sometimes he teases me and jokes, sometimes he is serious. In the end, we have always managed to share a few laughs and I leave smiling, and feeling happy inside.
Good ol'friends can beat out the internet any day in my book!
* Saw Mu Lar's village was attacked in Burma in the 90's. He fled with his wife and kids to a refugee camp in Thailand, where he helped build and lead a Christian church outside the camp in a small, remote Thai village where when he first approached it, they told him to leave and threatened him. He decided to give a Christmas/New Year celebration at the village bringing food and song, inviting everyone to come to the celebration. After that, village members where more open to Christianity. He now lives in the Twin Cities with his family. He came here so his children could have more education and better opportunities.