I feel as though I have been away forever. So much has happened over the few weeks that it would be impossible (and probably boring) to catch you up on everything.
We had another visitor as Patrick Filler, one of our many splendid friends, came to visit us. A brave man - he travelled here on his own with stops in Taiwan, Vietnam, and Laos. Obviously he is not the first to endeavor on this type of journey alone, but if you grew up in Marengo you might know what type of feat this is.
The visit from Patrick, and Kimberly before, have continued to share new, interesting, and important perspective on what we are doing here. As life here simply becomes normal life here, it is easy to lose perspective. For instance, Kimberly mentioned that people appreciate just hearing us call out their name while we play a game.
As I interact with the same person each day, she/he ceases to be a collection of what I know about them and just becomes who she/he is. Sometimes I need to remember that many have histories that may make me, my actions, and attention carry more weight than I think, and sometimes not.
Life has not treated most of our patients kindly, but that is easy to forget when I see them every day. I am starting to recognize the importance of approaching everyone with more compassion and love. Most days it is not easy and somedays it feels impossible, but starting each day with this as a thought, well, is a start!
We travelled to Chiang Mai and Bangkok with Patrick and had a terrific time. We seem to learn a little from everyone we travel with. Patrick was willing to be honest as we were hyper-planning his whole visit, and mentioned that he often likes to figure things out once we get there. A type of planning light. We needed it - what a relief!
Not only was it a relief, but it made room for when we met Ganji, a new employee at the wonderful hotel we stayed at. He was full of excellent suggestions on where to eat, what to do, and how to experience the slightly hipster city that is Chiang Mai. We hiked, we ate excellent food, we took a lot of pictures, we watched a little soccer, and then we walked a little more.
Of course eating Kao Soi (the local Chiang Mai dish) and experiencing amazing Burmese food were great experiences, but holding a giant burrito brought comfort to a new level. I was so excited to hold it, that I was taken aback when that first flavor of perfect and fresh avocado bathed my tongue. Ahhh - relief.
The trip was not `simple` per se, but Patrick joined with us in making many decisions that were both simpler and more economical than even Susan and I would have made a year ago. He also recognized and seemed to experience the internal tension that comes with indulgence and privilege that our community can very rarely enjoy.
Patrick`s visit ended rather unceremoniously. Together we ate the amazing breakfast that was provided by the hotel whilst sharing individual sized portions of a waffle, pancakes, and french toast smothered with carmelized sugar and ice cream. He went up to his room, grabbed his belongings, returned to give us each a couple hugs, and then he turned and walked out of the restaurant.
After we stared at the closed door for a full minute, I quietly wept, which probably made the staff uncomfortable. It was such an amazing week. We seemed to move at the perfect pace and in rhythm. We seemed to have time to talk about everything and nothing. Patrick`s combination of being, probably too, generous, but having a way to make us comfortable in accepting it was also nice.
What I cannot put to words though is how much I longed to share this community and these people that I love with someone I know. It is similar to when we were young and became friends with someone who is extremely charismatic. As you get to know the person you start thinking how you cannot wait to introduce them to your other friends. That is this community to me. It would be impossible to really share them with everyone, but I am gladdened that a few will get to see them.
Special thanks to Patrick`s wife Kristy for their generosity, for sharing Patrick, and for bringing humor, good cheer, and artful beauty to the experience!