"Uncle… where are you going?"He hobbled across the high way towards me, rushing to avoid the oncoming cars who, instead of slowing down, sped up, and added numerous honks to the quite afternoon.
I had been waiting my turn to cross only moments before, and was hesitant, carefully judging the speed of the oncoming cars and my ability to pedal my bicycle quickly enough from a dead stop. He caught my eye as I waited. He was dirty, dressed in rags and on his back was a heavy pack. He had one leg, and two crutches.
I was rushing to get back to the office. There was someone waiting on a phone call from me and a staff dinner to get to, but something told me to stop and talk to him.
"No my daughter. I won't follow with you." He said laughing. But I had pity for him and insisted.
"Where are you going?"
"Mae Sot." He answered.
"I'm going to Mae Sot too, sit here and follow with me." (this is Burmese language. If you want to go somewhere with someone you use the word "lai" which literally means follow.)
Don't take me for the kind of girl who offers rides to strangers. I've never done it in my life, but I could see this man was kind and in need, and he had one leg for goodness sakes. Mae Sot was a few kilometers away and he would have walked along the patchy highway, a tedious task with crutches.
He got onto the back of my bicycle and we wobbled at first as I attempted to pedal and pick up momentum. Cars swerved around us, and I slowly made my way into town. People gaped and stared at us; a young white girl, and an old Burmese man. I got us into town and he told me where to stop. His whole face smiled as he said, "Thank you so much my daughter. You are so kind. No one has ever stopped to give me a ride."
As I peddled towards the office tears began to fill my eyes. I felt an overwhelming love for that old man, and I wanted to go back to hug him, to tell him to be strong and have hope and courage.
I struggled to not sob, and as I pulled into the office driveway I closed the gate and laid my head on the seat of my bike.
I think too often I separate my head from my heart. I have plenty of love for the people that I work with, but I shut out the big picture, and focus on the little one. I try not think about everything that is going on across the border from me, because if I did, I don't know if I would be able to cope.
There is so much fear, so much death, so much injustice, and now I was letting it all go. I was acknowledging it.
The old man.
The people at Mae Tao Clinic.
My young friend Ma Think who I had just visited with.
The people in her dormitory who had welcomed me in and fed me just 10 minutes before.
They are different from anyone I have every encountered.
They are the result of selfishness. They are innocents who have had to suffer under the rule of evil. They have had everything taken from them, and live out of plastic bags. They have no place to call home, they are illegal, and unseen.
Tears are words from your soul, and I let my soul have it's say.
I look into the eyes of the children from Burma. I see their smiles, I see the pure love they are able to have. They are not yet bitter, they have not yet been scarred. They still carry hope.
I pray that they never lose it. I pray that it will become contagious and pour into the hearts of their parents and neighbors. I pray that justice will reign in the land, and I pray that I will never forget these people, and the things they are teaching me.