It strikes me that time really does move in cycles, that what you give out comes back to you, what you once took you eventually must return.
Last Saturday, I went out to drinks with my older brother and some good friends, and during the course of the evening, my friend asked my brother what it was like for him moving to the U.S. when he was just eleven years old. He talked about how hard life was in Mississippi at the time because he was a tiny little, dark-skinned Asian boy in a land full of racist white boys who picked on him and his sister every day. And almost every day he would get into fights and nearly get expelled for trying to stand up for himself or his sister. But, he said, when I came along, life changed. He and our sister could not wait to get home to see me and revel in this new person in their lives. They fed me, bathed me, clothed me, and played with me. Protected me.
Things got better when we moved to California too, and my brother proclaimed he would pay any price to stay here. And as I grew up, I felt that love every day, even though my siblings aren’t the type to say “I love you” directly.
And now we are older and my brother is in trouble, and this time it is he who came to me for help. This time, I was the one protecting him. I also went to visit my sister today, and then found myself giving her advice. This time, I was the one guiding her.
It makes me feel whole, now that I can finally give back what once was given to me. Isn’t it funny, how taking makes you feel like there is a piece of you that has gone missing, a place that is empty, but giving fills you up? In balance, of course. Only giving will drain you too, eventually.
My mother has long played the role of matriarch in our family. She is the one to whom everyone turns. She is the center, the teacher, the judge, the advocate, and the comfort. I sense that one day, I may be asked to be the one to fill her shoes. This is my training. Going to Thailand and living there for a time will also give me tools.
In Thai culture, there is very definite and clear class system. Not only in society, but also within the family. A hierarchy that is not challenged, but is always respected. So equality in some ways is a foreign concept. However, there is also a strong expectation that pu yai (the big person) will take care of pu noi (the little person). For example, if a group goes out to a business lunch, the person of the highest status will always foot the bill. No one else would dare offer to pay because that is not seen as politeness, but rather a challenge to the other person’s authority. Elders take care of the younger. And when the elders cannot take care of themselves, the younger eventually become the family elders and reciprocate. In some ways, elders begin to return to childhood as age sometimes strips them of their faculties.
And so the cycle goes.
This Week’s Challenge: Origins
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Next Week’s Challenge: Repentance