Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The joy of a shared marble

'What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others...' Nelson Mandela

For most people who are not born into poverty it may be difficult to understand that people who have little are often more generous with the little that they have than those that have much.

My children have many friends from many different walks of life. They are missionary kids, growing up between worlds, even though they have Thai passports by birth. They have Thai friends who speak Thai, Thai friends who have been raised in English, friends from Australia, America, Canada and New Zealand. They are friends with the Burmese children in our area. However the children that they love to play with the most of all, are the Karen children who live in a small make-shift village on the border of Thailand and Burma.

Why do they like to play with those children the most? Their lives are so uncluttered. I would like to use the word uncomplicated but with the complex issues that they face growing up in extreme poverty and without citizenship in any country,  that simply isn't true. What I mean by uncluttered is that they have so little 'stuff'. There are few possessions to be had, and what they have, they share without a second thought. No parents have to come and intervene to make them share. It is their natural inclination.

This is not something that is behavior that has been taught, but rather an attitude that has been learned from the way that they see their parents interact with others. Everything is shared. As poor as they are and as little access as they have to whatever it is that they may need, they are always thinking of others. Just last weekend when we were in the village, a friend from Bangkok brought some second hand clothes for the villagers. The response of one of the leaders in the village was: "Next time you come, don't forget to bring more winter clothes. We know some people who live on the Burmese side of the border who live in the forest. It is very cold in the winter and they have nothing to wear." I had to ask myself, if I struggled to get by every day, would my attitude have been to think about someone else in need?

In the past few months we have spent a lot of time out at the Karen village with teams of volunteers. In all that we have given, and all that the teams have done, I am never convinced that we are the givers and not in fact the receivers in this relationship. For all that we teach and all that we do, I think each one of our volunteers, including our own family, learns and receives one hundred times more. I know that for my children, countless life lessons have been learned playing in the dust and climbing the trees together with their Karen friends. Probably one of the greatest is this:

One marble shared among many friends can bring more joy than a room full of toys kept to oneself.

My Karen friends have made a difference in my life. How much money you have is not the limiting factor on the difference that you can make to the world. Share what you have been given and the joy will be shared.

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